Every February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Teen dating violence is a pervasive issue that affects teenagers who are just beginning to explore relationships and their sexuality. Many of us experienced our very first relationships as teens. Some of us may have made mistakes that we don’t want our children, grandchildren, cousins, or younger siblings to make. Because of this, a lot of us are in the perfect position to educate the teens in our lives on what a healthy relationship looks like, as well as how to set boundaries in relationships.
According to “love is respect”, a campaign that teaches teens what healthy relationships are, relationships exist on a spectrum. Relationships can range from healthy to unhealthy to abusive. A healthy relationship consists of respect, communication, trust, and equality. Both partners can enjoy spending time separate from one another. They make mutual decisions and are financial partners. In an unhealthy relationship, one partner is disrespectful, mistrustful, dishonest, and cannot communicate effectively. One partner may be trying to control certain aspects of the relationship—or all of it. People in unhealthy relationships might also only spend their time with one another and not have relationships with others. Someone in an unhealthy relationship may also pressure the other into something they are not comfortable with. Lastly, in an abusive relationship, one partner may be communicating in a threatening or harmful way. This partner may mistreat the other or accuse their partner of cheating when this is not true. An abusive partner may also deny that their actions are abusive or harmful. They may be controlling and try to isolate their partner from other people in their lives, including their friends, family, or even acquaintances.
This then begs the question of what to do to have and maintain a healthy relationship. Setting boundaries is an extremely important way to have and maintain a healthy relationship. Learning how to set boundaries can be challenging, but here are some tips from love is respect to help. The “l word” can be a scary thing for any relationship, never mind your very first one! Saying “I love you” can be used as a manipulation tactic. Teach your teen that love comes at different times for people and that’s ok. If your partner tells you that they love you, don’t feel pressured to say it back. This goes hand in hand with taking your time in a relationship. Don’t do anything that you’re not ready to do. If the relationship feels like it’s moving too fast, tell your partner! Communication is key in a healthy relationship. Teach your teen to communicate with their partner about what they are and are not ready for. This includes sex! Teens can feel pressure from peers, society, and their partner to have sex. Teach your teen that if they’re not ready for it, don’t do it! If your partner truly cares about you, they will understand and wait. This also falls into line with the fact that sex is not currency. If your partner tells you that they love you, or buys you a nice or expensive gift, you don’t owe them anything. Lastly, time apart is key! Teens need to build relationships with friends and peers. Being able to enjoy time and activities apart from one another is key in healthy relationships. Teaching your teen about healthy versus unhealthy relationships and setting boundaries can be tricky, but these tips are here to help you!
For more information on teen dating and relationships, please visit https://www.loveisrespect.org/
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