Starting Conversations: Healthy Adolescent Relationships
The vision of the WCA to is to foster a community where individuals thrive in safe, healthy relationships. In order to achieve this vision, it must be a community effort; young people and adults, service-providers and business people, college students and working professionals, etc., all coming together for a shared future. With the last few weeks of summer ahead of us, the timing is right to focus on what parents, family members and others involved with teenagers can do.
Oftentimes we’ll hear parents say that they want to help but they are unsure of what they can do—their child isn’t dating yet or their child is already in a healthy relationship. However, we always tell any parent is that it is never too early or the wrong time to talk about healthy relationships. Starting conversations with your teen is a great way for every parent, family member, or family friend to join in the efforts of preventing relationship abuse.
A great resource every parent should check out is LoveIsRespect.Org. This national agency not only provides trained peer advocates 24/7/365 offering education, support and advocacy to teens, young adults, and their concerned loved ones, it also provides a ton of great information and resources for teens and their parents. Check out their sample questions to start a conversation with your child:
- Are any of your friends dating? What are their relationships like? What would you want in a partner?
- Have you witnessed unhealthy relationships or dating abuse at school? How does it make you feel? Were you scared?
- Do you know what you would do if you witnessed or experienced abuse?
- Has anyone you know posted anything bad about a friend online? What happened afterwards?
- Would it be weird if someone you were dating texted you all day to ask you what you’re doing?
They provide some more tips to continue the conversation:
- Do your own research on dating abuse to get the facts before talking to the teen or 20-something n your life. Start with the information and resources on loveisrespect.org.
- Provide examples of healthy relationships, pointing out unhealthy behavior. Use examples from your own life, television, movies or music.
- Ask questions and encourage open discussion. Make sure you listen, giving them a chance to speak. Avoid analyzing, interrupting, lecturing or accusing.
- Keep it low key. Don’t push it if your teen is not ready to talk. Try again another time.
- Be supportive and nonjudgmental so they know they can come to you for help if their relationship becomes unhealthy in the future.
- Admit to not knowing the answer to a particular question. This response builds trust.
- Reinforce that dating should be fun! Stress that violence is never acceptable.
- Discuss the options your child has if they witness dating abuse or experience it themselves.
- Remind your son or daughter they have the right to say no to anything they’re not comfortable with or ready for. They also must respect the rights of others.
- If the teen-young adult in your life is in a relationship that feels uncomfortable, awkward or frightening, assure them they can come to you. And remember — any decisions they make about the relationship should be their own.
- Find ways to discuss gender equality at A Call to Men.
Additionally, the WCA offers educational presentations for young people or parents on the topics of healthy relationships. If you’re interested or have any other questions focused on youth engagement, please contact Madeline D’Onfro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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