BEND, OR -- February is when many of us celebrate loving relationships. But, for Saving Grace, it’s also time to educate teens about healthy dating. According to a recent state survey, one in eight students will experience dating violence by the age of 18.
The local nonprofit's Assistant Executive Director Trish Meyer says adults can also help by watching for the signs a young person might be in an abusive relationship, "Checking the partner’s phone or email, or wanting to know passwords for social media, and controlling their presence on social media or texting." Other signs are similar to adult abuse, "Frequent put-downs, dismissing the person - particularly in front of others, making the partner feel badly about themselves."
Meyer acknowledges kids don’t always want to talk with parents about dating, but she says opening the lines of communication is critical if they see signs of potential abuse, "Talk about what you’re hearing. If it’s, 'These behaviors are not normal, that your partner is doing to you. I’m concerned for your safety.' And, 'What are some safe outlets for you if you don't want to talk further with me, as your parent, get a plan together for who you can reach out to and get support'." She tells KBND News parents can steer kids to other trusted adults, "There are safe people that they can talk with if they don’t feel comfortable to talk with Mom or Dad about what’s going on; to help a teen recognize who the safe folks are in their life. It could be a counselor at school, it could be a teacher, it could be a coach, it could be somebody in their faith community."
This is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and Meyer says it's a good opportunity to take proactive prevention steps by talking about setting relationship boundaries, "What are the limits that I want to set, in terms of what I share with my partner, whether that’s physically or emotionally. And when boundaries are set and are mutually respected, that’s when trust can develop." But she says one of the best ways adults can teach kids about healthy romantic relationships is by modeling them.
For more tips and information on Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month visit LoveIsRespect.org.