Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019 indicates that among U.S. high school students who reported dating during the 12 months before the survey:
- About 1 in 12 experienced physical dating violence.
- About 1 in 12 experienced sexual dating violence.
Youth who are victims of teen dating violence are more likely to experience depression and anxiety symptoms, engage in unhealthy behaviors like using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, exhibit antisocial behaviors like lying, theft, or bullying, or think about suicide.
Talking about this topic with a teenager can be hard, but here are some tips that may help:
Define a healthy relationship. There are countless examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships in movies, television shows, and within today’s current events. Use these examples as conversation starters about expectations for healthy relationships.
Encourage open communication. Ask your teens about their opinion on unhealthy and healthy relationships. Talk about topics such as boundaries, privacy, consent, and respect. Do not dismiss their perspective if it doesn’t align with your own; encourage debate and self-reflection.
Define expectations and boundaries. Let your teen know any rules you may have, including curfew. Give them an opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
Offer support. Be sure to let them know you support them in the dating process. Lend a compassionate and supportive ear when necessary. If they feel more comfortable talking to someone else about dating, find a trusted mentor or counselor to allow them to share their feelings. Whatever way you intend to support your teen, make sure they know that you are available.
Describe the different types of abuse and associated warning signs. Remember to discuss physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and digital abuse.
If a teen is experiencing abuse in a relationship, help is available through the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) such as non-medical counseling, safety planning, and other supportive services.