Dating Violence: How to Prepare and Protect Your Teen

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Teen dating violence is a real and growing concern for parents.

How can you increase the chances your son or daughter will establish healthy dating relationships and avoid becoming a teen dating violence statistic?

In observance of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, Beth Collins, MS, LPCC-S, a counselor with Samaritan Behavioral Health, recently provided Premier Health Now tips to share with parents.

She recommends setting the stage for healthy relationships early, well before your child’s teen years:

  • Encourage friendships with children and families whom you trust and who have similar values to yours. This way, Collins explains, “you can have an influence on the ‘pool’ (of potential dates).”
  • Encourage your child’s interest in sports and hobbies. This helps ensure that “sweet-talking from a boyfriend or girlfriend is not their only source of self-esteem,” says Collins. And, if the relationship sours, your teen will be grounded in interests that give her satisfaction and strength.
  • Build an open, positive relationship with your child – so she’ll feel comfortable coming to you with concerns and questions.

Then, when your child enters adolescence, set clear dating expectations. For instance, that your teen:

  • Stay involved in regular family activities, like game night and meals together. Family comes first.
  • Date people no more than two years younger or older or no more than one grade level apart. “You want them on the same developmental level,” Collins explains. Also set a limit on how often she can go out on dates or with friends.
  • Stay involved in extracurricular activities
  • Maintain open dating relationships. “This means the families of both kids are meeting each other. The girl is meeting the guy’s parents, and the guy is meeting the girl’s parents. And, they’re still hanging out with their old friends, and spending time with each other’s friends.” 

Collins adds that when a young couple dates openly, friends and family “are going to see the relationship more clearly” than the young couple will. “Being ‘in love’ is addictive, and we’re not seeing straight,” she explains. “We’re only seeing the good things, and not the bad. It’s important to listen to the voices of others who are witnessing the relationship.”

Also, she recommends, make clear – before your teen begins dating – your rules and boundaries, based on your family’s values. This can include anything from cigarettes, drugs, and grades, to sexual and physical relations and violence.

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