Twelve Talks to

Have With Teens


About one third of teens have a dating relationship during their high school years. It is important for adults to understand the dynamics of teen relationship violence, and to talk with their teens about creating healthy relationships.

  • Do teens even use the word “dating”? You would need to ask each teen! Words used to refer to types of relationships vary among teen groups—and tends to change over time—but terms could include: dating, relationships, hooking up, talking, seeing, being exclusive, hanging out and many others. 

  • While dating is a normal part of the adolescent experience, only about one in three high school teens have ever been in a committed relationship. 

  • Teens need to know that in a healthy relationship:​

    • Your partner respects you and your individuality.

    • You both feel safe being open and honest.

    • Your partner supports you and your choices even when they disagree with you.

    • Both of you have equal say and respected boundaries.

    • Your partner understands that you need to study or hang out with friends or family.

    • You can communicate your feelings without being afraid of negative consequences. 

    • A healthy partner is not excessively jealous and does not make you feel guilty when you spend time with family and friends. A healthy partner encourages you to achieve your goals and does not resent your accomplishments.


  • Relationship violence is a pattern of behaviors that one person uses to gain power and control over their partner, usually over a period of time, and can be physical, emotional, verbal, and/or sexual.


  • Relationships don’t always start out abusive. A teen may value their relationship and may not see that their partner’s behaviors as controlling, unhealthy or abusive. Many times, the unhealthy or abusive behaviors may be portrayed as sweet or romantic, or as a normal part of youth culture. 


  • Teens who experience relationship violence face unique barriers such as limited access to resources, attending the same school as their partner, having limited access to transportation or less control over their schedules. It is important to know these barriers because they can help teens create a safety plan.

Content adapted from

If you were dating someone, how would you expect to be treated by your SO?

Share this video with your teen to help discuss the many different types of relationships and how to recognize if they’re healthy or unhealthy. (1:55)

Conversation Starters

  • Jump in! Admit that you want to have an awkward conversation. That might make it a little less awkward.

    • Tell them that you would love to talk to them about dating-- and that includes anyone, of any gender or sexual orientation-- that they are (or wish they were) dating!​

  • Share this video from Futures Without Violence about digitally controlling relationships and ask them what they think.

Ask Yourself

  • Are you assuming this topic doesn't apply to your teen because they aren't "dating?” Teens frequently do not refer to their intimate relationships as “dating” and most teens do not tell an adult if they are involved in a violent or controlling relationship.

  • Do you know the common warning signs that a relationship is going in the wrong direction?

    • Checking your cell phone or email without permission

    • Constantly putting you down

    • Extreme jealousy or insecurity

    • Explosive temper

    • Isolating you from family or friends

    • Making false accusations

    • Mood swings

    • Physically hurting you in any way

    • Possessiveness

    • Telling you what to do

    • Pressuring or forcing you to have sex

  • Are you coming across as more judgmental than you mean to? Listen to teens talk about their dating experience without judgement and encourage teens to make their own decisions rather than telling them what to do. 

  • Have you checked in to make sure your teen is a great partner? If you find out a teen is using abusive behaviors toward their partner, call the behavior for what it is and help them find alternatives to their behaviors. Talk about what healthy relationships look like, and how changing their behaviors will create a better, healthier relationship. 

Things to do

  • Meet your teen's boyfriends, girlfriends, partners and friends. Invite them to share meals or activities with you and other members of your family.

  • Set up clear boundaries for your teen, including any boundaries related to romantic relationships or dating.

  • Consider your own relationships and what your youth observes role-modeled. Youth sometimes base their own relationships on those they see among the adults in their lives. 


  • The National Dating Abuse Hotline is available for anonymous and confidential help and information for teens. You can contact them online and by chat at or by phone at 1-866-331-9474. (Adults are encouraged to call The Hotline.)

  • Love 146 offers resources and information about human trafficking and exploitation, and most importantly, what steps to take as a parent/caregiver to safeguard your teen and others in your community.

Recommended Resource

love is respect.png

Love is Respect: Healthy Relationships

Other Recommended Resources

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* Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2019, Jefferson County data; **Jefferson County CTC Youth Town Hall data 2019 & 2020.


This project was created by the Jefferson County Communities That Care coalition and is housed within Jefferson County Public HealthThis resource was developed with funding from a Communities That Care grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, a grant from Community First Foundation and a Drug-Free Communities grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the grant providers.