Did you know that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month? When we think of February we often think of Valentine’s Day on February 14th . On this special day we might take the time to celebrate love by treating our partners to romantic dinners, showering them with gifts, and posting cute photos of each other on social media. With all the hearts, flowers and hope of love, it’s easy to forget that not every couple in these pictures are in healthy relationships. For teenagers in relationships, the chance of them being abused by their partner is very high. Nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year.*

Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month reminds us that abuse in a relationship can happen to anyone, at any age, no matter the race, religion, sexual orientation, or economic background. As a parent or caregiver, you’re in the best position to help make a difference in your teen’s life. Here are some tips on ways you can help the teens in your life develop healthy dating relationships:

Define a healthy relationship– Helping your teen understand what a healthy relationship is will help them set their own standards for dating. Discuss healthy relationship habits to give them an idea of the kind of person they want to date and what they should expect from a partner. Already worried about your teen’s relationship? Take this quiz to get ideas of how to help.

Be an example– Talking to your teen is a great start. Teens learn by having direct conversations with those that care about them. They also learn by what they see. Let your relationships be an example. When you have disagreements with someone you care about, let your teen see that healthy conflict and conversation is okay and part of a relationship. If you are a single parent, show them through your own dating decisions what is healthy. If you aren’t in a relationship, show your teens how you handle conflict with friends and family in your life and how you make decisions about what is safe for you and your family.

Monitor social media– The majority of a teenager’s social life takes place online. Take an active role in your child’s social media use. It’s not being nosy to ask questions and talk to them about safety. Help them think about what they want to share and what they want to know about someone. Check out this website for additional tips on social media safety.

Use your resources– Talk to your child’s pediatrician about your concerns. Ask the pediatrician if your child should be talking to Adolescent medicine for guidance around their changing body and sexual health. Have your teen take a quiz to start the conversation about their dating life and being a good partner.  It can make it less awkward to have this conversation with a guide. Let them know about text and live chat lines with professionals where they can get some guidance and ask questions.

Have an open dialogue– Let your teen know they can always confide in you and ask any questions. Teens are always listening even when it seems like they aren’t. Be a listener as well. Listen more than you talk and take their relationship serious. You will be surprised at what comes up. Don’t give up! Talking about dating with your teen may feel awkward for both of you and your teen may want to shut the conversation down; be sure to let them you are there for them no matter what.

Raising a teenager is not an easy task. You are uniquely qualified to talk to the teens in your life. You care about them and want the best for them- that’s a great start! Health Safety? in relationships is just another way you talk to them about keeping their body and mind safe healthy?

If you think your teen is experiencing dating violence you can always contact either the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-866-723-3014 or the National Teen Dating Violence Hotline by calling 1-866-331-9474 or texting “LOVEIS” to 22522.

*CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey

Submitted by: Office of Domestic Violence Strategies, City of Philadelphia