Talk with Your Teen about Healthy Relationships

The Basics
You can help your teen build strong, respectful relationships.

Take Action!
Talk with your teen about a set of rules for dating. Then write the rules down.

Start Today: Small Steps

The Basics

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Parents play an important role in teaching kids about healthy relationships.

Unfortunately, many teens are in relationships that are unhealthy. About 1 in 10 teens who have been on a date have also been:

The good news is, you can help your teen develop strong, respectful relationships. Start by talking with your child about how to:

Talking about healthy relationships is a great way to show that you're available to listen and answer questions. Together, you can agree on clear rules about dating to help keep your teen safe.

How do kids learn about relationships?

Kids learn about relationships from the adults around them. When you taught your child to say “please” and “thank you” as a toddler, you were teaching respect and kindness.

Your own relationships also teach your kids how to treat others. When you treat your family, partner, and friends in healthy and supportive ways, your kids learn from your choices.

Children learn from unhealthy experiences, too. If they experience violence at home or in the community, they're more likely to be in unhealthy relationships later on.

When should I start talking about healthy relationships?

It’s best to start talking about healthy relationships before your child starts dating. Start conversations about what to look for in a romantic partner. For example, you could ask your child:

What makes a relationship healthy?

In a healthy relationship:

What makes a relationship unhealthy?

In an unhealthy relationship:

Teens may think it’s okay to act in these ways, but these behaviors can develop into violence. If you see any of these signs, talk to your teen.

What is dating violence?

Dating violence is when one person in a romantic relationship is physically or emotionally harmful to the other person. It can happen in any relationship, whether it’s an opposite-sex (straight) or same-sex (gay) relationship.

Dating violence can include:

Dating violence can happen in person, online, or with other technology (like cell phones). It can also keep happening after the relationship has ended. Find out more about teen dating violence.

Both boys and girls can experience unhealthy or unsafe relationships. Sometimes both partners act in unhealthy or unsafe ways, but using violence is never okay. It’s important to talk to all kids about how to have respectful, healthy relationships.

Who is at risk for dating violence?

Dating violence can happen to anyone. Teens may be more at risk of being in unhealthy relationships if they:

What are the warning signs of dating violence?

It’s common for teens to have mood swings, but sudden changes in your teen’s attitude or behavior could mean there's something more serious going on. If you're worried, talk to your teen to find out more.

Show your teen this  fact sheet about healthy and unhealthy relationships [PDF - 681 KB]. External Links Disclaimer Logo

Watch for signs that your teen’s partner may be violent.

If your teen is in a relationship with someone who is violent, your teen may:

Watch for signs that your teen may be violent.

Teens who use physical, emotional, or sexual violence to control their partners need help to stop. Start a conversation if your teen:

Help your teen stay healthy.

Dating violence can have long-term effects for both partners — even after the relationship ends. The good news is, teaching your teen about healthy relationships can help prevent these negative effects.

Someone who has experienced dating violence may struggle with:

A partner who has been violent may experience:

You can help prevent these long-term effects of dating violence by helping your teen develop the skills for healthy relationships. Watch for signs of dating violence and help your teen stay healthy now and in the future.

Take Action!

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Talk with your kids to help them develop realistic and healthy expectations for relationships.

Help your teen develop problem-solving skills.

Help your teen think about healthy relationships by asking how he would handle different situations. For example, you might ask, “What would you do if:

It may help to use examples from TV shows, movies, or songs to start the conversation.

Listen respectfully to your teen’s answer, even if you don’t agree. Then you can offer your opinion and explore other options together. Use these tips to start a conversation with your teen.

Help your teen support a friend.

It's also a good idea to talk with your teen about what she can do if a friend is in an unhealthy relationship. Suggest that your teen talk to you or another adult, like a school counselor, if she notices signs of dating violence.

Set rules for dating.

As kids get older, they gain more independence. But teens still need parents to set boundaries and expectations for behavior. Get tips on setting rules for your teen [PDF - 175 MB].

Here are some examples of rules to talk about with your teen:

Be a role model.

Treat your kids and others with respect. As you talk with your teen about healthy relationships, think about your own behavior. Does it match the values you're talking about?

Treating your kids with respect also helps you build stronger relationships with them. This can make it easier to communicate with your teen about important issues like healthy relationships.

To learn more about building stronger relationships with your child, check out these resources:

Talk to your kids about sex.

Teens who have sex with more than one person are at higher risk of being in an unhealthy relationship. Talk with your teen about your values and expectations.

Talk to your kids about preventing STDs.

About half of all STD cases in the United States happen in teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. Learn how to talk with your teen about STD prevention.

Talk with your kids about alcohol and other drugs.

Alcohol and drugs don’t cause violence or unhealthy relationships, but they can make it harder to make healthy choices. Talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.

If you're worried, talk to your teen.

If you think your teen’s relationship might be violent, take these steps:

Get help if you need it.

If you're worried about your teen’s safety, there are people who can help.

Loveisrespect is an organization that offers support and information for teens and their parents or friends who have concerns about dating relationships. To get in touch with a trained peer advocate, you can:

You can also contact your state’s domestic violence coalition External Links Disclaimer Logo to find resources near you.

Start Today: Small Steps

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