Supporting Healthy Teen Dating
February 14 is Valentine’s Day. For some this holiday celebrating romantic love is a fun season of candies, cards, flowers and heart themed gifts; for others, it is a time to make or renew deep relationship commitments. But for some, whether dating or single, our cultural focus on romance can be a time of anxiety and mixed emotions.
February is also Teen Dating Abuse Awareness month which makes this an excellent time to talk with youth of all ages about healthy and unhealthy behaviors in romantic relationships. The line between romantic and abusive may be more difficult to recognize than we realize. Some behaviors that may seem to be dramatic expressions of love in novels or movies would be stalking, harassment or assault in non-fictional day-to-day life.
In a national survey, 1 in 10 teens reported being hit or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Additionally, 1 in 10 teens reported they had been kissed, touched, or physically forced to have sexual intercourse by someone they were dating.
Love can be shown in many ways; abuse is not one of them. While it is not always easy to talk with teens about dating, much less about dating abuse, it is critical that parents and adults do so on an ongoing basis. Teens who openly communicate with adults about their relationships recognize and respond to abuse with more confidence. Let the teens in your life know they have the right to:
- Be respected.
- Privacy. Online and offline.
- Be with family and friends whenever they want.
- Choose who they do and do not want to date, or if they want to date.
- Not be controlled through emotional manipulation, jealousy, anger, or hurt.
- Choose when and if they have sex.
- Say no to sexual intimacy. At any time. Even if they have said yes before.
- End a relationship.
- Live free from violence and abuse.
Holidays like Valentine’s Day provide an opportunity for us to talk about social pressures and messages, to share personal stories, and to ask our youth what they think about love and relationships. They can also be times to model positive, healthy love.
Throughout February, The Advocacy Center will be posting words and images sharing different ideas about what “Love Is.” You can be part of the local conversation by following their Facebook page, “The Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.” Join in by posting your own words and images with the #Loveis607. For more information about teen dating abuse or talking with teens about healthy and unhealthy relationships, visit LoveIsRespect.org.
If you or someone you know is currently experiencing dating or sexual abuse, The Advocacy Center hotline is available 24/7 at 607-277-5000.
What are ways you will be supporting your teen this valentines day?
We’d love to know! Tweet your advice to us @ToCoYouth!
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Thank you to The Advocacy Center for contributing this monthly message.
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