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A sobering statistic by Seventeen magazine indicates that 25% of their 13 million teenage readers report having been victims of some sort of dating abuse. I don’t want to live like a parental ostrich – ignoring things around me when they are uncomfortable. Teenagers are never as defensive as when they think their personal decisions are being questioned or criticized. It might be hard for my kids to believe, but I was a teenager once who dated (at too young of an age) and made mistakes. I let my daughter know that not only can she talk about her own relationships with me, but that if she ever has any concerns about friends I am available as well.
There is no one conversation that will save our children from the risks of dating violence. We must make sure we include dating violence in our vocabularies and keep communicating with our kids about this real possibility.
I grew up in a house where we had one singular conversation about dating and sexual relationships, encompassing pregnancy, birth control, theology, and peer pressure, all in a span of about 3 minutes, and never discussed anything about dating violence. My daughter is not dating yet, but by talking with her now about dating violence she won’t feel that I am condemning or judging a boyfriend.

We talk in small pieces, about everything from a guy she knows who disrespects his girlfriend to the headlines of Rihanna and Chris Brown.
I share stories of my own youth not for the glory of humiliating myself, but to let them know that I really have been there, and sometimes wished I hadn’t been.
I ask about kids she knows, things she has heard in the news, and if she has ever seen what might be signs of controlling or abusive relationships. There are hotlines, websites, and other resources for our kids too, just in case they still can’t come to us at the end of the day. It takes years of reminding and directing to teach my children about car seat safety, the importance of bike helmets, not running with scissors, and any other potential dangers. Children who are in abusive relationships before they are truly mature enough to know what a healthy relationship is all about risk their futures. She is also on an incredible journey as she home schools her 4 children, and is supported through it all by her husband of more than 15 years, Steve.
When I read these truly sad statistics about abusive relationships at such young ages I knew I needed to talk more with my teenage daughter about the topic and make sure I keep my head out of the sand. Even talking with my daughter about an old boyfriend who cheated on me and how that made me feel lets her know that respect in a relationship comes in all forms.

Let them know that abuse includes controlling and manipulative behaviors, verbal insults, and other disrespectful actions. We also talk about “What if?” scenarios, where there is no pressure that I am judging any of her friends or relationships. How could I expect to devote any less time and conversation to a topic that statistics show is a real threat to our youth? Their abilities to form positive, nurturing, and respectful connections with boyfriends or girlfriends, and even future spouses and life partners, are in jeopardy. My daughter, the animal advocate and smart young woman that she is, also reminded me that if you see a person abusing an animal, they are more likely to abuse a person as well.

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