The teenage years can be a hard time for anyone. Think back, it probably wasn’t all hanging out at the mall with your friends or playing (and dominating in) your favorite sport.
It’s a time for making big decisions like who to be friends with, who to date, what to wear and how to act. Teens are exploring the social world while trying to figure out what they like and don’t like; while they’re making decisions that could someday turn into their core beliefs. Many of these decisions involving relationships will have a great impact on their future.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every 11 teens has reported being physically injured by a boyfriend or girlfriend at least once in the past 12 months. About one in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. When these once-healthy relationships take a turn for the worse, young people can quickly find themselves in relationships fueled by anger, frustration, attacks on self esteem and even physical injury.
A healthy relationship is where the people respect and support each other in their decisions. They can also feel free to express themselves honestly. An unhealthy relationship is where the relationship is unbalanced and one person may be controlling the other verbally or physically.
Dating violence is the physical, sexual, or emotional violence within a dating relationship. It isn’t an argument now and then or a bad mood after a long, stressful day. It also doesn’t have to be anything tangible; it can be intimidation, isolation, insults, or even one party trying to control the other. Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school, and report binge drinking, suicide attempts, and physical fighting.
Young adults need their parents or an adult figure to talk to them about developing healthy relationships. Experts say parents should teach their kids how to develop healthy relationships early in their teens’ lives.
Easier said than done, right?
If you’re a parent who’s taught your kid(s) about healthy relationships, how did you do it? Share your tips in the comments section; you never know who you’ll help.
The CDC recommends teaching teens about respect, anger management, problem solving, negotiation and compromise, and using assertiveness rather than aggression.
For tips and activities parents, teens and community organizations can use to teach and learn more about developing healthy relationships, the CDC has a playbook full of PDFs to get you started.
Prefer something a little more interactive? The CDC also has an online training program called Dating Matters. The program is a 60-minute, interactive training designed to help educators, youth-serving organizations, and others working with teens understand the risk factors and warning signs associated with teen dating violence.
In today’s society teens are seeing violent or abusive behavior, whether it’s on TV, in a video game, or between people they know personally. Parents need to play a role in their teen’s life by lightly monitoring what their child is doing and who they spend their time with. And more importantly help them choose healthy relationships.