Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: Talking About Consent

By Jason Jowers, MS, MFT

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and an integral part of promoting healthy relationships among teens is talking about consent. According to Teen Dating Violence @TeenDVMonth, “Approximately one in three high school students will be involved in abusive relationships” (2021). For parents, caregivers, and service professionals helping families, it can be difficult to talk to teens about romantic and sexual relationships. But these talks are very important to have, especially when helping teens navigate the pitfalls of dating violence, bullying, peer pressure, and self-image/self-esteem issues.

So how do we as professionals work with parents, family members, and friends in helping them to talk to their teen or loved one about dating violence and issues of consent? Perhaps we should start by encouraging them to do the following:

  • Having an open-door policy where we tell teens they can come and talk to us no matter what. Communication is key but we also must let them know we will respect anything that they come to us with; to not judge.
  • Set an example by showing them what healthy and respectful relationships look like. Have open conversations about how to establish and continue these types of relationships.
  • Learning to set boundaries is crucial whether that be physical, emotional, as well as digital. Technology is a huge part of our everyday lives and learning how to respond to digital bullying, sexting, and online pressure is something all teens this day and age must know about.
  • It is important for us to make teens aware of potential dangers. Talk to them about red flags in unhealthy relationships so they have the proper tools to recognize problems before they occur. This includes knowing the signs of an abusive relationship yourself as a parent, caregiver, or service professional. Again, Teen Dating Violence @TeenDVMonth shares this article on the signs of teen dating violence.
  • Finally, being involved and interested in the teen’s life is probably the best way to stay aware of potential issues of dating violence. It’s not about being overly involved to the point of smothering, but staying up to date on what’s going on with them.

Romantic relationships are supposed to be exciting when you’re a teenager and are hallmarks of our lived experiences. That is why it is even more important to emphasize safety and raise awareness of teen dating violence and other potential challenges.

REFERENCES

Teen Dating Violence (2021). “How to Help Your Teen Set Boundaries in Their Relationships.” Retrieved from: https://www.teendvmonth.org/how-to-help-your-teen-set-boundaries-in-their-relationships/

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