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Teens sitting together.

Twelve Talks to
Have With Teens


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 significant other:​

    • Respects you and your individuality.

    • Treats you with trust, and you both feel safe being open and honest.

    • Supports you and your choices even when they disagree with you.

    • Expects that you both have equal say and respects your boundaries.

    • Understands that you need to study or hang out with friends or family.

    • Doesn't make you feel afraid of negative consequences for communicating your feelings. 

    • Is not excessively jealous and does not make you feel guilty when you spend time with family and friends.

    • Encourages you to achieve your goals and does not resent your accomplishments.

    • Treats you with kindness and respect.

  • 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. Abusive relationships don't always start out as abusive.

Content adapted from

If you were dating someone, how would you expect them to treat you?

Abusive partner  stats 2020.png

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 what they think about other peoples' relationships. Whether in a movie or show or in person, your teen is likely observing other peoples' relationships. Also, 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.

Ask Yourself

  • Are you assuming this topic doesn't apply to your teen because they aren't "dating?” First, 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. Second, talking to your teen about healthy relationships is important whether or not they are currently involved with a significant other.

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

    • Checking your cell phone, email or social media 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 engage in sexual activity

  • 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. 

Resources & Help

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Rules & Boundaries

  • The most important boundaries related to teen dating are the ones your teen has for themselves about what they do and don't expect from a partner. Be sure to ask your teen what those boundaries are. Verbalizing them will help your teen think through their own expectations of current or future partners.


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

  • Talk to your teen openly about boundaries related to dating, and make sure they are both clear and fair. Boundaries related to dating are likely to change over the teen years.

  • 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. 

  • Know where your teen is and who they are with when they are not at home.


Equity & Inclusion

  • Teens who experience relationship violence face unique barriers such as limited access to resources, attending the same school as the abuser, having limited access to transportation or less control over their schedules. A trusted adult may not be able to remove all of these barriers, but they can help the teen create a safety plan.

  • Teens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or asexual are far more likely to face bullying, dissemination and inequities. In Jefferson County, among youth who been in a relationship in the previous year, youth who are gay or lesbian are 3 times more likely to have been physically hurt by someone they have dated.

Taking Action in your Community

Reduction of risk factors, and improvements in protective factors, can happen on multiple levels-- within an individual, among friends and family, by adjusting systems in places like schools or businesses, and on the policy level for towns, counties or states.  When improvements happen on all levels, our teens are most likely to thrive. Here are some policy and systems you and/or your teens might be able to influence:

  • All schools are required to have policies in place to protect those who have been sexually abused or harassed. They are required to have these rules publicly available. Ask your school about where they have their Title IX policies posted. Find out more: .

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