Not only do we at HealthyWomen believe in the importance of healthy bodies, we also like to promote healthy relationships—healthy relationships with ourselves, our partners, our friends and our families. And we believe it's important to teach our children about healthy relationships, both through what we say and what we do.
This is a perfect time to talk about healthy relationships because February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and Feb. 4 is It's Time to Talk Day, a national day to promote healthy relationships and prevent teen dating abuse.
You may not know that one in three teens will experience some type of abuse from a dating partner in the form of either physical, sexual or verbal abuse. Unfortunately, three out of four of us parents have never had a conversation about domestic violence with our children.
Talking to your children about what it means to have a healthy relationship is a crucial step to ensuring they are prepared to have safe, respectful relationships throughout their lives.
Start the talk
Organizers of the It's Time To Talk Day observances offer these tips to get the conversation started:
- Provide your children with examples of healthy relationships and point out examples of unhealthy behavior. Use examples from your own life, television, movies or music.
- Ask questions and encourage open discussion. Make sure you listen to your children, allowing them time to speak. Avoid analyzing, interrupting, lecturing or accusing.
- Keep it low-key. Don't push it if your children aren't ready to talk. Try again another time.
- Be supportive and nonjudgmental so your children know they can come to you for help if their relationships ever become unhealthy.
- If you don't know the answer to a question, admit it. This builds trust.
- Reinforce that dating should be fun. Stress that violence and intimidation are never acceptable.
- Discuss options your children have if they witness or experience dating violence.
- Remind your children that they have the right to say "no" to anything they are uncomfortable with or not ready for.
- Remind them that they must respect the rights of others.
- Assure your children that they can come to you if they are ever in a relationship that feels uncomfortable, awkward or frightening.
- Remind them that any decisions they make about a relationship should be their own.
Starting a conversation with your child about healthy relationships isn't complicated. Every situation is different, but here are some ways you could talk with your children:
- "What do you think a healthy relationship looks like?"
- "What do you think an unhealthy relationship looks like?"
- "In a healthy relationship, you should never feel pressured, unsafe or harmed in anyway."
- "Did you know that it's unhealthy and could be abusive if your partner is pressuring you to do things you don't want to do or controlling what you do or who you spend time with?"
- "If you ever feel like this is happening in your relationship, you can talk to me."
On Feb. 4 parents across the country are joining forces to start having these critical conversations with their kids as part of NO MORE Silence: It's Time To Talk Day. This annual conversation day, presented by Mary Kay and Break the Cycle's Love Is Not Abuse campaign in partnership with Verizon, is focused on educating and equipping parents, mentors, youth advocates and others to start talking to teens about healthy relationships. It's Time to Talk Day also encourages people to make this issue a priority year-round.
Conversation events, called It's Time To Talk Day Talk-A-Thons, will be happening across the country on Feb. 4. Anyone can attend. If you're interested in participating in the free Talk-A-Thon events in New York City with Mary Kay Cause Champion Olympic Gold Medalist Jordyn Wieber, register at www.timetotalknyc.com.
Make healthy relationships a priority
You can commit to making this issue a year-round priority by adding your name to the Love Is Not Abuse Coalition, a group of advocates nationwide that supports and promotes healthy relationships in a variety of ways in their communities. You can also donate no-longer-used wireless phones to HopeLine from Verizon, a program that supports survivors of domestic violence nationwide.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or has a question about relationship health, you can text "loveis" to 22522 for round-the-clock support from advocates at Love Is Respect, sponsored by Mary Kay.
Our kids need our love, and they need to know how to recognize healthy relationships.