This blog post is from our counseling department, courtesy of HS counselor Katherine Becker.
As parents of adolescents (or soon-to-be adolescents), you teach your kids a number of practical life skills, like how to change a flat tire, how to budget and manage money, how to run a load of laundry (and hopefully put the clean clothes away when they’re done). You also impart life lessons to nurture your teen’s socio-emotional development, including encouraging healthy friendships and dating relationships.
Despite our best hopes for our kids, did you know:
1 in 3 adolescents in the United States is a victim of abuse from a dating partner
1 in 10 high school students have been purposefully hit, slapped, or otherwise hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend?
Dating abuse can take many forms — physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, cyber. Data shows that only 33% of teens who experience abuse in a relationship ever tell anyone about the abuse. (All data from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.)
Franklin School of Innovation high school Health & PE classes explore the ins and outs of dating abuse and healthy relationships. The school partners Helpmate, a local domestic violence advocacy organization. Parents also recently had the opportunity to learn about how to support healthy teen relationships during a parent education night.
With Helpmate educator Hannah Stampe, students discuss their “dealmakers” and “dealbreakers” in choosing dating partners. They learn about types of abuse and red flags of abusive behavior, as well as how to support friends who are in unhealthy relationships. They reflect on the nature of their own dating relationships using a healthy relationships quiz. Students consider how they might react in the face of abusive behavior from a dating partner. (Coach K’s class participated in this programming in late November, and Coach Burke’s classes will work with Helpmate on January 28th and 29th).
Exploring relationships is a healthy and important part of the middle and high school experience. For parents, finding the line that gives our teens room to explore, while staying alert to possible warning signs, is hard work! If your teen is dating or “talking” with another teen, here are a few things to watch:
- Is your teen cutting off communication with other friends? It’s understandable that a new relationship may take center stage, but not at the cost of other friendships.
- Is your teen suddenly changing habits or activities? If your teen is dressing differently, or quitting long-time hobbies or favorite activities, or dramatically changing their appearance, it may be a sign that their partner doesn’t appreciate them for who they are.
- Is your teen checking in with their partner constantly? Texting and social media are a reality for this generation, but constantly having to tell their partner where they are, what they are doing, or who they are talking to may be a sign of an overly possessive relationship.
- Does your teen have unexplained bruises or cuts? This could be a serious sign of abuse, or of self-harm related to a change in your teen’s self-image.
Concerned about the health of your child’s dating relationships, or want to learn more about how to support your teen in building healthy relationships? Here are some resources to help start the conversation, and to learn more about how to help:
- “The Signs: Teen Dating Violence” video PSA
- Making Caring Common – 5 Tips for Families for Guiding Healthy Romantic Relationships
- Helpmate has lots of resources to explore!
- Love is Respect is another great source of information. Find what you need, when you need it.