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Five Steps for Adults to Support Healthy Teen Relationships

Step 1: Understand the pressures of teen dating relationships.

Teens have limited prior relationship experiences and may not have a blueprint for healthy relationships.

  • Teens are highly influenced by norms among their peer groups.
  • Technology is extremely integrated into many teens’ lives and may be used against a dating partner.

Teen Relationships: Teens have more fluid definitions of gender and relationships than previous generations. They are more likely to perceive gender (and relationships) on a spectrum rather than binary.

  • 7% of teens identify as LGBTQ
  • More teens are likely to be out in their high school, including at highly visible events like prom
  • Young people may communicate about relationships in slang

Step Two: Encourage and model healthy and safe relationships. Communicate family values and expectations.

Key Aspects of Healthy Teen Relationships:

  • Comfortable Pace
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Independence
  • Respect
  • Equality
  • Compassion
  • Taking Responsibility for Actions
  • Healthy Communication

Discussion Guide For Adults:

  • What do you look for in a dating partner?
  • Sometimes a dating partner may ask someone to quit things they love, like cheerleading or basketball. What do you think about that?
  • When you go out with your dating partner, who pays?

Step Three: Know the definition and warning signs of teen dating abuse.

  • Over 80% of parents believe that teen dating abuse is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.​
  • A majority ofparents (58%) could not correctly identify all of the warning signs.
  • Teen Dating Abuse (TDA) impacts adolescents from every zip code, income level, race, religion and nationality. ​
  • 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of TDA, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.

> Learn More: Know Your Red Flags

Step Four: Reduce isolation for teens.

The most dangerous time for a victim in an abusive relationship is when the relationship is ending. Safety planning is critical to reduce isolation and increase safety.

Tips for Talking to Teens:

  • Approach with curiosity rather than judgment
    • Do you feel safe in your relationship? 
      • Do you feel comfortable disagreeing with them?
      • Do you feel like you can spend time with your friends?
      • Do you have to share your passwords with them?
    • I believe you. It’s not your fault. 
  • Remind Teens of their digital rights  > Learn More: Know Your Digital Rights?
  • There are many reasons why young people might stay in abusive relationships > Learn More: Why Don’t they just leave?
  • Shift to Trauma-Responsive Language
Instead of Consider
Why don’t you just leave? What do you need right now?
You need to…. (tell, report, etc.) Is there anything you’ve tried that has helped / made you feel safer?
You should call... (resource) I know a few places that might help, would you like to look together?
That’s abusive and I’m making a report. Offer mandatory reporting disclaimers at the beginning of the conversation and periodically throughout.
That’s just how relationships are. You’re not alone in what you’re going through. Your description of what’s going on makes sense – I believe you.
I was in that situation and then I realized my own self-worth and left. I have experienced something similar and I’m glad you opened up to me.
Anything you need, call me, day or night, no matter what, I’m there. Here are a few ways I could support you, would any of these sound helpful at this point?

Step 5: Increase Safety for Teens

  • What I’m seeing/hearing makes me concerned for your safety.​
  • You may be afraid the abuse will get worse if you tell someone. But it is actually likely to get worse over time on its own; being alone in this increases the danger for you.

Safety Resources:





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