Teach teens about safe dating

As part of your “back to school” preparations, have you talked with your teen or young adult about dating safety?

Ideally, the topic has been discussed prior to your child dating. The important thing is to have conversations about this topic with your child, even if he or she is already dating, in a relationship, or heading off to or back to college.

Forty percent of girls ages 14-17 know someone who has been hit or beaten by their boyfriend, so chances are high that even if your teen is not involved in an abusive relationship, he or she knows someone who is. Verbal, emotional and physical abuse can be inflicted by either party in the relationship, so be sure to include both sons and daughters when sharing this information. Same-sex couples are not immune from these issues, either.

Teens and young adults have less experience with relationships and may have romanticized views of love. Coupled with a desire to have independence from parents and possible peer pressure to date, these characteristics can put teens at risk.

What can you do? Talk with your son or daughter about safe dating practices. Consider double dating or dating in a group for the first few times they go out with a new person. Have your son or daughter find out the plans for the evening before leaving on a date, and tell someone else, like a parent, friend or roommate, so another person knows where they are going and what time they are expected home. Letting the date know that he or she is expected to call someone when he or she returns is another precaution. Encourage your children to trust their instincts, and if they become uncomfortable, to stay calm and think of a way to remove themselves from the situation.

Early warning signs that a date may become abusive include extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, and isolating your child teen or young adult from friends and family. If your child shows physical bruises or injuries, suddenly stops going to school, begins using drugs or alcohol, or has extreme mood swings in conjunction with a relationship, these are signs that of a potentially harmful relationship.

The good news is that children who grow up with a sense of respect for themselves and others are much less likely to end up in a disrespectful relationship of any kind. Use respect in your home, in your conversations with your child, and when dealing with your child’s school, teachers, coaches, youth leaders, etc. Modeling is a powerful form of teaching this skill.

Amy Johnson, MSW, is a personal life and parent coach in Federal Way. She facilitates faith, sexuality classes for youth, and parenting classes in the Puget Sound area. Contact:

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