February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. There are actions we can take year round to help prevent teen dating violence, such as having conversations about healthy relationships with the young people in our lives.
Relationships come in many shapes and forms and can include family members, friends,and significant others. In the same way there are many kinds of relationships, there are also many influences on these relationships. As children grow up, they are influenced and molded by the relationships around them. Observing how people interact can influence their perceptions of healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Every day we see relationships portrayed in the media, on television, in movies, in music, and many other places. This is why it is important for parents to start having conversations with their children about what a healthy relationship looks like. Parents have the ability to show their children what is, and what is not, acceptable in a relationship.
The conversation about relationships should be one that takes place throughout a child’s life. The conversation is necessary, but there is more than one way to have the conversation. When a child is young, parents should begin reinforcing positive messaging with statements of affirmation. Examples of these statement include “you deserve someone who treats you right,” and “you are worthy of a healthy relationship.” The goal is to create an open dialogue with your child.
Finding opportunities to have these conversations with your child may seem challenging but the best times often occur during common activities. One example of a time to bring up the conversation on relationships is while you are in the car with your child. A song comes on the radio and you notice it discusses relationships in some form. At this point you can ask your child what they think of the song and inquire about their perception of its meaning. You can use this to lead into the conversation.
It is also important to teach your child about boundaries and what they mean. As a parent, you are the best person in their life to teach them what they should expect in a relationship. Let your child know that it is okay to make their own decision, even if a partner tells them otherwise. Your child should know they are worthy of being treated with respect. And, ending any conversation with a reminder that you are there for them if they have questions or need help is recommended.
If you have the open dialogue with your child they will most likely come to you with questions or for help should they experience an unhealthy situation. As a parent you want to prepare your child for the realities around them rather than sheltering them from the world. If you prepare your child for what can happen in a relationship, they will have a better understanding of what to do if a relationship goes poorly.