Do you know what an unhealthy relationship looks and feels like? It can be hard for us as adults to always recognize when a relationship is veering into unhealthy territory, and the same is true for youth. Almost everybody recognizes that if someone is physically violent, that is a sign of an abusive relationship, but when it comes to the other ways that someone can exert power and control over their sexual and romantic partners, it’s a lot less clear.
Think about it. Is a partner texting you all the time to ask about your whereabouts abusive? What if a partner explains away their extreme jealousy as proof of their love? Or if a partner spreads terrible rumors about you to everyone in your peer group? Those are all ways that an unhealthy relationship manifests itself. If you were a teen, do you think you’d be able to recognize that?
1 in 3 teens experience some form of dating abuse. A lot of adults would have a hard time believing that because it might seem like problems in teen relationships are harmless or just a sign of inexperience. The consequences of unhealthy relationships for teens are the same as those for adults, and the relationship skills and patterns we experience in adolescence can set the stage for relationships we have as adults. Everyone deserves a safe, healthy, and happy relationship, but it can be hard to know when to leave a relationship.
How can we as educators, parents, and adults who care about youth support them? At the Annex, we work to educate and support teens in their understanding of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Here are some ways to join the movement to end teen dating violence:
- Talk about it! Let teens know that you are open to talking about their relationships, the good and the bad, and that you will take their concerns seriously.
- Educate yourself.
- Check out is www.loveisrespect.org.
- Know local resources that you can connect teens with, such as the Sexual Violence Center.
Our relationships impact every aspect of our lives from our ability to succeed in work or school to our physical and mental health. This February, let’s take some time to think about how we can work with teens to build healthy relationships.