February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Ruth A. Sunde
  • 92nd Medical Group Family Advocacy Office
I recently read an article that discusses how the #MeToo movement, a cause that is against what many people believe is as misogynistic culture that enables sexual misconduct to go unchecked, affects adult dating. The article is a discussion of how the recent movement is changing the face and ultimately the whole dynamic of dating.

The article has an adult theme to it, but it had me wondering: If these two enmeshing topics are obviously worthy of print and ponder for adults, what is the ultimate impact on teens? It also highlights how important it is that parents discuss what a healthy relationship looks like in the life of an adolescent, especially since dating is a new skill for them.

Normal human development tells us that adolescents eventually gravitate away from their typical source of wisdom and guidance including their parent(s) or caregiver(s). During this phase, peers become the people from whom they get their news and information from. This transformation is part of a normal, natural process. Along with this transition comes the uncertainty of receiving information about beliefs and values from an equally awkward, uneducated and inexperienced source.

Because of this transition away from sharing with parents, there is more room for misunderstanding the teen’s experiences. Particularly, what appears to be “puppy love” to the adult or parent, is an overwhelming rush of emotions and hormones for the teen, as well as an increased experience of social acceptance. There is probably no better time to have a discussion about healthy relationships with your teen than during February, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. As a parent, if you think the discussion will be awkward, imagine how the discussion between your teen and their friends will sound?

There are a number of websites that can refresh your memory, as parents, about the teenage experience and help you start and sustain a conversation about healthy relationships and the cautions of an unhealthy relationship. Helpful websites for both teens and parents include loveisrespect.org and thehotline.org. Local resources include the Young Women’s Christian Association Crisis Line at (509) 326-2255 or the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 1-800-562-6025. Agencies such as the Fairchild Family Advocacy Office can assist with ideas and resources to help make the presentation to your teen easier. For more information, call Family Advocacy at (509) 247-2787 for resources and ideas on how to start the discussion.