Guiding Today’s Preteens and Teens Toward Healthy Dating Relationships
While February was Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, this information is useful year-round. One out of three teenagers will experience physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner before graduation. The good news is that abuse is completely preventable.
Safe+Sound Somerset joined “Building Bridges to Better Health” in 2018 to help reduce domestic violence in Bound Brook, which has the seventh highest rate of occurrence in New Jersey. We work on the School-Based Programs Action Team in partnership with Bound Brook High School, which serves students from both Bound Brook and South Bound Brook. By offering training to teachers, parents, and students, we aim to improve healthy dating relationships and reduce domestic violence in our towns.
Teenagers WANT to talk about relationship dynamics. Teens in Somerset County schools have asked us, “Why don’t adults take our romantic relationships seriously?”
So, what can you do to help?
- Be OPEN and ATTENTIVE. Set aside time to give teens your undivided attention. Put away phones and talk in an environment where you’re both comfortable.
- Assess your own values ahead of time. Teens might ask you about how you view relationships. Be ready to answer potentially tough questions as honestly as possible.
- Discuss and model healthy relationships. You can have conversations with children of all ages to prevent all kinds of violence — including bullying. Healthy friendships and relationships have nearly identical dynamics. Each partner has rights and responsibilities within that relationship.
- Regularly discuss the media’s relationship portrayals. Preteens and teens may have unrealistic expectations of relationships based on media influences that emphasize jealousy, control, extreme drama, and stalking behaviors as signs of love.
- Monitor social media use and have open discussions about drawing boundaries. Constant access to technology blurs lines about acceptable amounts of communication.
If you or someone you know needs help or information about domestic violence, call or text Safe+Sound Somerset’s 24/7 hotline at 866-685-1122. The hotline provides free and confidential support and services, including safety planning and counseling for teens and adults.
Safe+Sound Somerset is the lead Domestic Violence organization for Somerset County. For more information or to schedule a workshop, contact Jessica Skultety, Community Outreach Associate, at 908.359.0003 x214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more and become a partner in the Building Bridges to Health’s work, connect with the project director and coalition through email or social media.