Teen dating violence awareness month: what should teens know about dating violence?

What constitutes a date? Is it when two people are driven by their parents to go to movie consequently paid for by their parents? Could it be when a group of people go to dinner together? Who should pay for the date? At what point does dating between two people become an official relationship? How long should two people be in a relationship before officially announcing it on social media? There are no right or wrong answers. These are all viable questions for teenagers in today’s dating scene, and they are all great topics to be discussed not only between two people in a dating relationship but also between caregiver and teenager to help guide them to the most appropriate answers.

While the dating scene might be confusing and tough to navigate, one thing is for sure; healthy relationships should have respect, trust, honestly, communication, equality, support, balance, compromise, and healthy conflict. They should not involve extreme jealousy, possessiveness, criticism, threats, physical abuse, sexual abuse or any combination of these red flags. Yet for a teenager whose self-esteem is still developing, being in any relationship might seem more appealing than not being in a relationship at all.

Teen dating violence can be prevented by encouraging protective factors and minimizing risk factors that increase the likelihood for teens to be subjected to violence in a relationship. Risk factors that are warning signs for teens to be cautious of include expressing inappropriate anger management skills, engaging in risk taking behaviors such as substance abuse, beginning dating at an early age, and associating with violent friends. Conversely, protective factors to foster include supporting positive youth development at home, in school, and throughout the community. Additionally, appropriate bonding between parents and teenagers can aide in the development of the social skills necessary for teens to handle dating situations.