February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). Beyond giving us an opportunity to highlight this very serious and common issue, TDVAM also allows the WCA to highlight a more positive topic: the importance of teaching, modeling and understanding healthy relationships.
Healthier relationships between young people improve their own lives and ultimately build healthier and stronger families, schools, and communities. TDVAM offers some great opportunities to start having these conversations. While it might seem obvious to you, unfortunately many young people do not truly understand what a healthy relationship. Especially with the messages from pop culture and the increased presence of social media in our lives, many individuals often have an inaccurate idea of what constitutes a healthy relationship.
Making sure the young people in your life understand this concept is an especially important key to abuse prevention because it provides concrete, positive goals such as communication, respect, and boundaries. One great way to start the conversation with the youth in your life is to simply ask a question and listen attentively to the answer (for example, “How do you define trust?” “Do you feel comfortable saying ‘no’ to your boyfriend/girlfriend/friends?”).
It’s also important to offer a nonjudgmental, supportive environment for teens and young adults to talk about abuse. Whether they are experiencing dating abuse or an unhealthy relationship, have questions about what that means, or know someone who is being abused, many young people want to talk to someone but don’t know how to bring it up or fear being judged or lectured. You don’t need to have all the answers or get everything perfect to create a safe space. Simply saying “If you need to talk, I will listen” can make all the difference.
To learn more about what’s happening this month and to find resources about healthy relationships, dating abuse, and how to start the conversation, check out our Teen DV Month page.