Helping Our Teens Set Healthy Boundaries
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and it is the perfect time to talk about Healthy Relationships with our children. Start the conversations before the child starts dating. A great way to help teens identify an unhealthy relationship is discussing boundaries. Here are a few talking points to help you get the conversation going.
Ask them what they believe a Healthy (happy) relationship would look like.
- Respect is when you ask each other what you want to do. One person isn’t trying to make all the decisions or control the other.
- You enjoy doing things together but you don’t feel forced to do anything. When you disagree both of you get to say how you feel and you are able to come to an agreement that both of you feel comfortable with.
- You enjoy each other’s company and are happy together. AND you feel free to have your own friends and interests outside of your relationship.
Identify some behaviors that are unhealthy.
- Your partner does not let you succeed in school or makes you feel guilty about your activities outside of school.
- Controlling behavior that is disguised as love. They might say something like “I love you and I just want to know where you are all the time. “ Or jealousy that begins to control what goes on between the two of you.
- Blaming you for your partner’s problems. “It’s your fault I didn’t do well in the game. I spent the whole time watching you to make sure you weren’t flirting with _____”. “If you didn’t make me so mad I wouldn’t call you those names or say those things”.
- If you feel stressed, scared, or sad these feelings are not part of a healthy relationship.
And then empower your child with the knowledge that certain behaviors are NEVER ok in a relationship and they should come to you or another adult immediately if it happens.
- Verbal Abuse- Screaming, swearing, bullying, or degrading name calling.
- Physical Abuse- Pushing, shoving, grabbing or holding you down, hitting, or kicking.
- Threatening to hurt you or someone else in order to get their way in a situation.
- Trying to control or force you to kiss, hold hands, or have sex. You have the right to say NO to ANY attention or affection.
Discussing these boundaries not only keeps them from feeling stuck or alone in an unhealthy relationship it can help prevent them from using those behaviors. Movies, TV, and music have more examples of unhealthy relationships then they do healthy behaviors. Peers can also be a major influence on them and as parents we need to make sure they are prepared with positive role models and expectations before heading out into the world of dating. 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 staying safe.
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