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The Do's of Talking About Healthy Relationships

Adolescence is a time when young people learn how to make decisions about relationships with their friends, family, and girlfriends or boyfriends.

What they learn now about how to treat others will affect their relationships throughout their lives. But they can't do this on their own--they need adults to help them choose respect.

Use the below tips to talk to your teen about the importance of having healthy relationships.

The Do's of Talking About Health Relationships:

  • Find the correct time and place.

  • Find the time and the place to talk with (not at) your child about healthy and unhealthy relationships away from phone calls and other interruptions. Do not wait until you have reasons to be concerned; it can make all the difference!

  • Listen to what they have to say.

  • Don't be afraid to ask them about their relationships, but be ready to listen. You can start from general and move to more specific. You might want to ask about some of their friends to start the discussion, and later get into their personal experiences. Abuse is a sensitive subject; build up trust if you do not have it already. You do not have to talk about the issue on the first try, but establish a pattern of personal, private conversation before you do.

  • Use "teachable moments" to start conversations.

  • Take advantage of movies, TV shows, video games, and current events--whatever engages youth--as spur-of-the-moment conversation starters. Take a longer route home from school, stay after practice, or go have some ice cream.

  • Pay attention!

  • Pay attention not only to the words but also to body language and what they are trying to say between the lines. If a youth is hanging around you more than usual, stop and pay attention--he or she might need someone to talk to or confide in. Sometimes they will tell you stories about someone else, just to bring up the subject and see how you react. Make sure to validate a youth's feelings and help them find solutions to the issues they have mentioned. Do your best not to look surprised or shocked. Instead ask them:

  • How do you feel about the story?

  • What do you think your friend should do?

  • What would you do if you were in your friend's position?

  • Be honest.

  • Keep it real and relevant--lectures don't work. Instead have a two-way conversation. Be ready to answer some questions about yourself and do so honestly. Acknowledge your mistakes and share the learning experiences, especially if they have witnessed abuse at home and you are one of the parents. Talk about how everyone deserves to be treated with respect. That is the minimum they could expect from anyone and the least they can offer. Remember, youth can learn from your mistakes too.

  • Keep the conversation going.

  • Talking often will keep you up to date on youth's thoughts and activities. It will help you better understand pressures they face, their values, and prevent problems from occurring. Make sure to know their friends. Research shows that most youth in abusive relationships tend to have friends who are also in abusive relationships or are violent.

To read more on healthy relationships, warning signs, and ways to keep them safe, check out our Dating and Dating Violence Blog HERE.

This information is adapted from the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services' Choose Respect curriculum called Causing Pain: Real Stories of Dating Abuse and Violence.

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