“I don’t even know where to start!”
How to Talk to Young People about Healthy Relationships & Teen Dating Violence
- Ask open-ended questions and listen to the answers. Don’t start with advice or comments.
- Stay Calm and as non-judgemental as possible when talking.
- Model healthy relationships and healthy relationship behaviors, including conflict resolutions and owning your emotions. You–not your dating partner–are responsible for managing your emotions.
- Talk early and often about consent. Consent should always be a clear “Yes” that is freely and enthusiastically given!
- Talk about rigid gender roles and stereotypes and how those expectations can hurt us and our relationships.
- Start building your open dialogue about relationships early and be consistent, so that over time these difficult conversations are normalized.
- Start your talk by talking about healthy dating standards and establishing boundaries, rather than dating violence to avoid shaming and shutdown of the conversation.
- Be vulnerable and share some of your “appropriate” adult/youth experiences or mistakes from dating and in relationships. Trusting young people with your difficult experiences and emotions can make them more likely to share with you when they are ready.
- Do not force the conversation–they will speak when they are ready.
- Talk about the ongoing work that healthy relationships require. Help them to establish their own healthy standards and boundaries and to understand healthy vs. abusive relationships (See definitions and warning signs).
- If you suspect a young person is in an unhealthy relationship:
- Be there to offer support
- Talk about behaviors and not the person
- Avoid ultimatums
- Help connect them to resources (including Project PAVE)
- Help them to make a plan to safely end the relationship
Healthy Relationship Behaviors:
- Open, safe and honest communication
- Trust & Acceptance
- Clear Boundaries that respect each partner’s needs
- Mutual love and respect
- Sharing of power equally
- Taking responsibility for emotions and actions
What is Teen Dating Violence?
A pattern of actual or threatened acts of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, used by an adolescent against a current or former dating partner. The abusive teen uses this pattern of violent and coercive behavior, in a heterosexual or same sex dating relationship, in order to gain power and maintain control over the dating partner.
Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship:
- Possessiveness and extreme jealousy
- Unexplained marks or bruises.
- Partner uses threats, shame, blame, and guilt to control their partner
- Using coercion to get sex or physical intimacy
- Partner emails or texts excessively.
- Being told what to wear or do by partner
- Isolation–no longer participating in activities or interests or spending time with friends/family
- Partner has a history of dating violence/has been abused
- Using rigid gender roles to police behavior
- Young person begins to show signs of anxiety/depression
Love is Respect Teen Dating Violence Helpline for Immediate Assistance:
Dial 1-866-331-9474, chat at www.loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522.