It's never too early or too late to start talking to your kids & teens about healthy relationships, but it's not always easy to know what to say. To learn more about how to have these conversations, take a look at the action steps below, or call our 24-hour Hotline at 1.800.220.8116, and one of our Advocates will be there to talk things through with you.
How Do I Talk to My Kid About Healthy Relationships?
Everyone wants their child to have healthy relationships - whether that is with their friends, their classmates, their siblings, or other adults that they look up to. Parents & caregivers have an important role to play in having honest and empowering conversations with their kids about safety, boundaries, and respect in their relationships.
Talk to them about what it means to be a good friend
- A good friend is someone you can count on, you can be yourself around, you have fun with, etc.
- A good friend treats others with respect, kindness, generosity, etc.
- I can be a good friend to others by being trustworthy, a good listener, kind, etc.
Teach them about setting & respecting boundaries
- Asking before touching another person and/or their belongings
- Listening to others
- Respecting others' personal space, belongings, beliefs, and values
Practice communication skills
- Taking turns listening & speaking
- Using "I Statements" (i.e. "When you didn't include me in the game, I felt sad.")
- Apologizing when you hurt someone's feelings
Model healthy relationships
- Kids learn more from what they observe in others than from what they are told by others!
- Let your child know that they can always come to you for support and if they have questions
Source: Planned Parenthood - For Parents
How Do I Talk to My Teen About Healthy Dating Relationships?
1 in 3 teens in the U.S. experiences physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner before they graduate high school. Parents, caregivers, educators, and other adults who play an important role in the lives of teenagers need to be proactive in having ongoing conversations with teens about safety, boundaries, and respect in their dating relationships. But it's important to have those conversations in a way that helps teens feel comfortable, supported, and empowered.
Source: Break the Cycle
Set a nonjudgmental, comfortable tone
- Practice talking daily with your teen about day-to-day topics or current events so they feel more at ease when you bring up more serious topics
- Without the pressure of direct eye contact, talking while walking or driving in the car side-by-side can help some people feel more comfortable with talking about difficult emotions or experiences
- Some people may prefer to communicate via text instead of in-person
- Use open-ended questions (i.e. "What was the best/worst part of your day today?") and avoid questions that can be answered with one word ("Yes," "No," "Fine," etc.)
Be prepared for difficult questions or responses from your teen
- "That's an important question, and I know it's not easy to talk about..."
- "Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me that..."
- "I don't know what the answer is, but we'll figure this out together..."
Keep the conversation supportive, and avoid criticizing or blaming your teen
- "I've noticed that you don't seem like yourself lately, and I'm worried about you..."
- "I'm concerned that __________ isn't treating you as well as you deserve..."
- "I just want you to know that I'm here for you..."
Know the resources, keep yourself informed, and reach out for support
- Warning Signs or "Red Flags" of Abuse
- Power & Control Wheel
- One Love Foundation
- Raising Respect
- Prevention Strategies for Parents
Source: the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
AWP's 24-hour Hotline (1.800.220.8116) is always available to provide information, safety planning, and guidance to parents, teens, & families.