teaching teens healthy relationships

Teaching Teens About Healthy Relationships

For teens, a first relationship is exciting. However, a lack of experience in the love department can mean disappointment, broken hearts and even abuse. As a parent, teaching your child about healthy relationships is a good step to prepare them for the future. It’s never too early to talk about it.

Begin by asking questions to learn about what your teen already knows or thinks about relationships, such as “Are any of your friends dating? What would you want a boyfriend/girlfriend to be like?”

Discuss the elements of a healthy relationship:

Freedom to Be Yourself

Tell your teen that they should feel comfortable expressing who they are. This means spending time with the people they like, dressing however makes them feel good, and participating in the activities that make them happy.

Mutual Respect

Both people in the partnership should speak to each other respectfully. Partners should avoid put-downs, even in the heat of a disagreement.

Limited Jealousy

While the green-eyed monster is sometimes mistaken for caring, a good partner doesn’t make their partner feel guilty for spending time with family or friends instead of them.


In a healthy relationship, partners offer a listening ear and encouragement for their significant other’s ideas and aspirations. In bad times, a partner can be the one to turn to for comfort.


While sharing can be a good thing between a couple, being someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t require a person to open up every aspect of their life. Partners are still allowed their privacy, which includes text messages, computer passwords, etc.


Setting boundaries is an important part of any relationship. A couple should talk about what they’re comfortable with — how often will they see each other, how far do they want to go physically, etc.


Trust and honesty are key foundations to a healthy relationship. Both partners should be able to talk about feelings openly without fearing negative consequences. Partners should be able to discuss serious matters face-to-face, and find the right time to do so. Compromise is necessary in a healthy relationship.

By starting a conversation about healthy dating with your children now, they are more likely to feel comfortable coming to you in the future when they need to talk. If you suspect that your teen may currently be experiencing dating abuse in their relationship, read about how you can help and resources you can pass along.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Dating Abuse Resources for Teens

As any parent knows, it can be difficult to communicate with your teen, especially when it comes to a sensitive topic like dating violence. Perhaps you’re not quite sure what to say, or maybe your teen doesn’t seem to want to talk.

Whatever stage you and your teen are going through in discussing and learning about dating violence — whether you want to teach them about healthy relationships for the future, or you’re concerned with a relationship they are currently in and want to give them advice — there are plenty of resources that can be really helpful.

From phone numbers and victim services centers, to online pamphlets and sites, we’ve put together a list of some of the best resources for teens. Share them with your teen and look at them together, or simply pass them on.

Who to Call

  • National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 77054. Call or text with peer advocates, or contact them using this confidential online form or Live Chat

What to Read

Online Interactive

Spread the Knowledge

Other Organizations

  • loveisrespect: Advice and info on healthy dating, to empower youth and young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships. loveisrespect is connected with The National Dating Abuse Helpline, which can be reached 24/7 via call or text (See: Who to Call)
  • Boys Town: Boys Town works to reunite children with their families when possible, or give them the skills and foundation needed to build a life on their own. They strive to help every child, “from those who may simply be struggling or in doubt to those who are in need of the most severe behavioral care”
  • National Runaway Safeline: If you’re thinking about leaving home, or you have and are seeking information and help, the Safeline is one of the top resources for runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth and their families
  • Trevor Project: The national crisis lifeline for LGBTQ teens and adults. They have suicide prevention services for youth in digital spaces, counseling via IM, and a large online social network for LGBTQ people
  • 1 is 2 many: Launched by Vice President Joe Biden, this initiative uses technology and outreach to spread knowledge about dating violence and sexual assault among teens and young adults
  • TeenWire: In addition to information about healthy and unhealthy relationships, TeenWire has resources about everything from body image to sexual health
  • ShowMeLoveDC: A campaign to raise awareness about healthy relationships and provide resources for LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence
  • Northwest Network: A network founded by and for LGBTQ survivors, focused on safety, support, and empowerment
  • The Anti-Violence Project: AVP offers free and confidential assistance to thousands of LGBTQ people each year in all five boroughs of New York City
  • A Thin Line: An MTV campaign created to empower teens to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse
National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Is Your Teenage Child Being Abused? Here’s How to Help

It can be scary to suspect that your teen might be in an abusive relationship. As a parent, your instinct is to help your child in whatever way you can. This need to help can drive you to quickly react, but sometimes what feels like the right plan of action could stop the conversation before it begins. Here are some tips to keep in mind when trying to help a child who is experiencing abuse.

Listen and Give Support
When talking to your teen, be supportive and non-accusatory. If they do open up, it’s important to be a good listener. Your child may feel ashamed of what’s happening in their relationship. Many teens fear that their parents may overreact, blame them or be disappointed. Others worry that parents won’t believe them or understand. If they do come to you to talk, let it be on their terms, and meet them with understanding, not judgment.

Accept What Your Child is Telling You
Believe that they are being truthful. Showing skepticism could make your teen hesitant to tell you when things are wrong and drive them closer to their abuser. Offer your unconditional support and make sure that they know that you believe that they are giving an accurate account of what is happening.

Show Concern
Let your teen know that you are concerned for their safety by saying things like: “You don’t deserve to be treated like this;” “You deserve to be in a relationship where you are treated with respect” and “This is not your fault.”

Talk About the Behaviors, Not the Person
When talking about the abuse, speak about the behaviors you don’t like, not the person. For example, instead of saying, “She is controlling” you could say, “I don’t like that she texts you to see where you are.” Remember that there still may be love in the relationship — respect your child’s feelings. Also, talking badly about your son or daughter’s partner could discourage your teen from asking for your help in the future.

Avoid Ultimatums
Resist the urge to give an ultimatum (for example, “If you don’t break up with them right away, you’re grounded/you won’t be allowed to date anyone in the future.”) You want your child to truly be ready to walk away from the relationship. If you force the decision, they may be tempted to return to their abusive partner because of unresolved feelings. Also, leaving is the most dangerous time for victims. Trust that the teen knows their situation better than you do and will leave when they’re ready.

Be Prepared
Educate yourself on dating abuse. Help your child identify the unhealthy behaviors and patterns in their relationship. Discuss what makes a relationship healthy. With your teen, identify relationships around you (within your family, friend group or community) that are healthy and discuss what makes those relationships good for both partners.

Decide on Next Steps Together
When you’re talking to your teen about a plan of action, know that the decision has to come from them. Ask what ‘next steps’ they would like to take. If they’re uncomfortable discussing this with you, help them find additional support. Suggest The National Dating Abuse Helpline, which offers a phone line, online chat and text messaging service where teens can talk with peer advocates 24/7. To call, dial 1-866-331-9474, to chat, visit or text “loveis” to 22522.

You can also call us at The Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). We can help you create a safety plan on their behalf, locate domestic violence services, and provide you with more information on the best way to help your teen.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

How To Recognize If Your Child Is In An Abusive Relationship

As a parent, your first and foremost concern is the safety of your children. You want to protect them and ensure that they are safe. You watch out for injuries, failure and heartbreak. But what if you suspect that they are being harmed by someone they love? How can you tell if your child is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship?

Relationships exist on a spectrum, so sometimes it can be difficult to tell what behavior is just unhealthy from behavior that is abusive. Each relationship is different and the people in it define what is acceptable for them, so what’s never OK for you might be alright for someone else.

If you’re concerned that your child is being abused by their boyfriend or girlfriend, you may notice that their boyfriend or girlfriend does some of the following things:

  • Checks their phone, email or social networking sites often and without permission
  • Calls them names or demeans them
  • Isolates them from family and friends
  • Checks up on them with constant calls and texts
  • Is extremely jealous when they spend time with other people
  • Does not allow them to work or have access to funds
  • Withholds affection as punishment or manipulation
  • Has violent outbursts that are mostly directed at your child
  • Threatens to hurt your child, their children, you or your extended family in any way
  • Has physically harmed them

If you notice any of these characteristics are present in your child’s partner or relationship, you should make an attempt to speak to them about what might be happening. Be supportive of them and their decisions, but explain to them that you’ve noticed some questionable behaviors and are concerned for their safety. Knowing that they are supported can mean the world to them.

If someone you care about is being abused, we can help you decide your best course of action. Give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE any time to speak with an advocate.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

DVAM Challenge 9: Share a Message of Support

Welcome to DVAM Challenge 9. We’re keeping it short and simple today. Understand your importance as a friend. What you say and do can really make a difference in someone’s story. If a loved one confides in you that they are experiencing abuse, believe them and be there for them. This doesn’t mean you have to “fix” their situation for them. They may just need to feel that they are not alone. You can do so much just by listening and not judging them.

Today, share this message and spread the idea that victims of domestic violence should be met with support from their family and friends. 


Domestic Violence Awareness Month

DVAM Challenge 8: For Frustrated Friends & Family

Watching someone you love experience domestic violence can be very disheartening. If the person you care for is not reacting the way that you want them to — for example, leaving the situation – it’s easy to become frustrated.

One of the most common reasons that friends and family members of victims become frustrated is because they witness or hear about abusive behaviors happening repeatedly, but don’t see any action being made by their loved one. Witnessing repeated offenses can make it difficult for you to maintain a positive outlook on your loved one’s situation.

Unfortunately, this can have a very negative effect on the victim. Your disapproval may make them feel as if they are helpless and are doing nothing for themselves. They may feel as if they cannot turn to you in times of crisis because you will judge them — if they feel that you aren’t supportive, they might distance themselves from you.

A lot of people lose relationships because of domestic violence.

Remember that abusive relationships are very complex. Abusers often manipulate their victims into believing that they will never be successful, that they will be unsupported or that they will be harmed if they leave the relationship. That can be very scary. Furthermore, abusers often follow fits of rage with periods of kindness in which they are very sweet, apologize and promise not to commit that violence again. That can be very confusing for the victim. Sometimes victims even blame themselves for the abuse that they suffer, telling themselves that if they hadn’t said or done something, their partner wouldn’t have been set off.

Before you pass judgment, try to understand what’s happening in their relationship.

The most important thing that you can do for your loved one is to be there for them when they are in need. Supporting them through tough times will maintain the relationship, but will also provide the victim with a network of care outside of the relationship.

In the spirit of supporting a loved one even when it’s tough, today’s challenge highlights ongoing friendship. DVAM Challenge #8: please acknowledge someone who has always been there for you and shown you support. Say thank you to them and share with us how they have helped you. This doesn’t even need to be related to abuse. If you are sharing your story about abuse, please make sure you do so safely. If you feel that speaking out jeopardizes your safety, please don’t share publicly but rather thank your friend.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

DVAM Challenge 7: Helping a Loved One

Helping a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship can be challenging. If you have noticed that your loved one’s relationship is unhealthy, remember that they need your support. Understand that you can’t fix or change their situation. Only they can choose what to do. For example, if they aren’t concerned for their immediate safety, then you have to respect that.

When talking to your loved one about their relationship, be honest about your concerns, but stay focused on their needs and avoid being judgmental. Say things like, “When you said that your partner did this, that scared me,” and “I’m really concerned about your safety.” Avoid statements like, “Your partner is no good,” or “They need to treat you right.” Don’t talk about the partner directly and avoid attacking your loved one’s actions. Doing this will show your loved one that you care for them and will help to prevent them from feeling defensive.

Ultimately you have to let your loved one make their own decisions about their relationship — even if it means that they choose to stay in an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes it’s difficult to do when you feel that they aren’t making the right choice, but you have to respect them. Try to remember that their abuser is probably controlling them at home and the last thing they want is to have their friends and family try to tell them what to do also.

Regardless of their decision, support them. If they choose to stay in the relationship, help them keep documentation of abuse. You can take notes on a calendar, save a file on your computer or take pictures of injuries. Documentation can be used in court if your loved one ever decides to take legal action against their abuser. You can also help them to find resources in their community or to develop a safety plan.

If your loved one decides to leave, know that the road ahead for them will be difficult. They will need your support more than ever. You can even help them to connect with counselors and survivor’s groups to help them as they move forward.

We often refer people to a book called “Helping Her Get Free” by Susan Brewster. It is a guide for family members and friends of people in abusive relationships. This can be an excellent resource for more in-depth information and tips.

If you have any questions please give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). We can help you to find resources, safety plan and give you more information about what your loved one is experiencing.

For today’s DVAM Challenge, practice active listening. You can do this for any of your friends or family, no matter what their relationship status is.  Truly listen to a friend or family member and concentrate on what it is that they’re saying. Rephrase what you hear them say so that you are deeply engaged in what they are sharing with you. For example, you could say, “I’m hearing you say _____, is that right?” By practicing active listening, we can give better support to those we love.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

What Makes Teen Dating Abuse Unique

Teen dating abuse can be as serious and scary as violence within an adult relationship. The abuse faced by teens can manifest itself in a variety of forms including physical, verbal and digital. We wanted to shed a light on dating abuse as February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

There are a lot of similarities between teen dating abuse and domestic violence, but there are also quite a few differences.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what a teen relationship is. Teens often use unique language to define their own relationships, using terms like talking, hanging out, hooking up or friends with benefits. These teen relationships can be extremely casual or extremely serious, and abuse can happen in any of these situations.

Unfortunately because many teens identify their relationships as being casual, they don’t realize that they can experience dating abuse. If they do realize, they often struggle with reaching out and telling someone about their abuse.

There is often a communication disconnect between teens and their parents or other adults. Teens may feel reluctant about reaching out to adults because of this lack of trust or comfort.  A teen’s first confidant will more than likely be a friend.

Teens that are new to dating may have unrealistic or unhealthy expectations. If teens don’t feel that they have strong models of healthy relationships to look up to, they may look to popular culture to learn what a relationship should look like. This can be problematic with the promotion of unhealthy relationships like those seen on TV or on the radio. These examples of relationships can be negative and often romanticize or fail to condemn unhealthy behaviors. This affects not only how teens perceive their own relationships, but also the type of advice that they give to their friends.

It’s difficult for teens to get away from their abusive partners. Teens may not drive, may not have a vehicle or may be limited in where they are allowed to drive. They often attend the same school as their abuser, so it’s difficult to avoid seeing their partner daily. They may share a friend group with their abuser, so it’s hard for them to know who they can trust.

Because of these difficulties, teens sometimes feel like it’s impossible to end the relationship or to get away from their abuser. They may not seek resources from their school or community for protection.

If you know a young adult who is in an unhealthy relationship, or would like to learn more about dating abuse, please visit The site features an online chat run by peer advocates from the National Dating Abuse Helpline, and can provide intervention via phone at 1-877-331-9474 or through text at 77054 or through their online chat.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

RHOBH: “But Now We’ve Said It”

On tonight’s episode “Tempest in a Tea Party,” a heated discussion amongst the wives about loyalty and friendship turned into an unexpected intervention for Taylor Armstrong about her marriage. The housewives agree that they all want to protect Taylor, but they also admit to feelings of confusion about how to handle the situation as friends of both Taylor and Russell.

Taylor was visibly anxious during the initial conversation with Lisa and when the subject of her marriage arose, Taylor becomes uncomfortable and even asks “Why are we talking about this?” Though Taylor is unsure of who her real friends are, the housewives repeatedly confess feeling scared for her.

We know there is no handbook for helping a friend or family member who is experiencing abuse. The housewives may not have supported Taylor the way we would have, but they did show concern for her safety and happiness, which is important. There were a few moments during the intervention that we wanted to pull out and talk about how they could have gone differently.

“You say that he’s leaving you, but then you’re getting on a plane with him.”
Camille tells the girls about Taylor coming over and talking for three hours about her struggle with her marriage and then is surprised when Taylor announces at the end of their conversation that she is going on a trip with her husband.  Camille is obviously worried about Taylor’s safety, but seems to blame her for putting herself in an unsafe situation. Many believe that abusive relationships are easy to leave and that the abuse ends as soon as the victim has left. Unfortunately, the reality is that, on average, a victim takes multiple tries to leave an abusive relationship. We appreciate Camille’s concern for Taylor, but we wish she had been more understanding of Taylor’s difficult position.

“Russell’s always been lovely to me.”
All of the housewives seem to have a good relationship with Taylor’s husband. Abusive partners can be charming and friendly in person, so this isn’t surprising. However, Taylor has shared several instances of abusive behavior with her fellow housewives. Seeing through an abuser’s façade requires a critical eye. We understand that the women have never seen Russell as unkind but we wish they took Taylor’s confessions to heart.

“Unless I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I can’t say.”
Kyle does not feel comfortable taking a side between two of her close friends when she has not witnessed the alleged abuser as a threat. She is also suspicious that Taylor may be exaggerating her stories about her marriage. Victims of abuse frequently do not come forward about their experiences because they fear they won’t be believed. Taylor was courageous for sharing her situation with her friends; however, her fears were realized in this episode when her struggle was not taken seriously. This can be especially dangerous if the abuse continues or worsens because Taylor will not trust anyone to support her. We recognize that Kyle was trying to be diplomatic by not believing what she had not physically seen, but we wish that she would have believed her friend and validated her feelings.

We would like to thank Bravo for airing this footage and we hope that viewers will feel more comfortable talking about domestic violence in their own lives.

Are you in a position where you need to support someone in an abusive relationship? Find more information about helping a friend or family member who is experiencing abuse or contact The Hotline and an advocate can help you figure out your next step.


National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

What Makes Someone Speak Out Against Domestic Violence?

Have you often wondered what makes a person speak out against domestic violence? Is it because they themselves or a family member were abused by an intimate partner? Or did they see the injustice that the abused face and want to speak out to offer support and help?

Out of the 17 members on our 15th Anniversary Honorary Committee, eight were either abused themselves or they had a family member who was abused in a relationship. The other nine were moved through events in their careers and by people in their lives who have helped them see the glaring threat that domestic violence poses to our families.

There are many ways someone can use their voice against domestic violence. Many individuals have started blogs to get information out on exactly what domestic violence is, and to supply resources for those needing help. Some bloggers are survivors of domestic violence and want to tell their story in hopes of reaching someone who is going through the same situation.

Others, like members of The Hotline’s 15th Anniversary Honorary Committee, have created public service announcements to spread awareness on the issue.

Quite a few musical artists have used their talents to express their feelings, whether through writing songs about domestic violence or using music videos to reach people. Two local musicians who are using their voices on behalf of victims are AJ Vallejo of the Austin-based band Vallejo and Jacob Gonzales. They produced an acoustic version of Rihanna’s song, “Umbrella” for SafePlace in Austin. The cover is a stirring rendition and contains statistics and pictures in the video that highlight the facts of domestic violence. Through their music, AJ and Jacob want to ensure that people know how prevalent domestic violence is in our country and that there is help for those who need it.

Another group who is using their talents to bring awareness to domestic violence is Y&R Chicago, a creative firm that aims to bring attention to worthy causes. This group expressed their admiration for The Hotline, and independently created “It Rarely Stops,” a PSA with haunting imagery, to bring to light the cyclical nature of domestic violence. The video includes the moving lyrics of “Mercy Street” performed by Peter Gabriel, who donated the rights to the music for the use of the video. Y&R feels the silence of the victim, her voicelessness, is the very thing that makes the spot powerful – and therefore speaks so loudly to its audience.

The Celtic-rock band Apsylon has been supporting The Hotline by donating proceeds from the download of their debut album, “Dreaming of Yesterday,” to The Hotline and loveisrespect. They were also inspired by our 15th Anniversary Love Is campaign to produce a PSA for the campaign.

However you choose to use your skills to help those being abused, we thank you and applaud your efforts to make sure everyone knows help is available and that they are not alone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is confidential and anonymous and takes calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).


National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

The Hotline Gives Thanks

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a day to spend time with family, giving thanks for loved ones, eating a home-cooked meal and enjoying all that life has to offer. During this holiday, we at The Hotline pause to give thanks and show gratitude for the following:

  • That those affected by domestic violence find the courage and strength to make that first call for help to 1-800-799-SAFE.
  • That elected officials understand the serious situation that domestic violence victims find themselves in and are working to help end domestic violence.
  • For partners and donors’ support and dedication in helping The Hotline be a vital link to safety for thousands of victims each month.
  • For advocates who give selflessly to each caller and are a voice of hope and safety as they journey toward a life free from violence.

Not everyone will have an easy holiday. Some will not be home, but instead seeking safety and refuge at their local family violence shelter. You can make these families’ holidays brighter by reaching out to your local family violence program this season. There are many ways you can help:

  • Volunteer your time at a local family violence program
  • Donate your professional skills (i.e. legal services, administrative, medical, hairstyling, etc.)
  • Organize a food drive or toy drive through your church, club, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc.
  • Donate gifts for adults and children. Some programs even provide opportunities for residents to pick and give gifts to their children.
  • Adopt a family at your local program
  • Donate your gently used clothing items. Programs use these items for residents who flee with only the clothes on their backs. Some also have resale shops and accept donations of clothes, toys, books, etc.

Keep watching the website for our “Light Up the Holidays” series, discussing how you can help those affected by domestic violence this holiday season. And from everyone at The Hotline, we wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

She Couldn’t Do It Alone

This blog post was written by Christina Owens. We thank her for sharing her and her mother’s story to help other victims.

By the time I was six, I knew the drill all too well. There would be a little bit of yelling, things would be thrown about and Dad would strike Mom. She would cry and apologize and I would hide. That was my job, when things got ugly I was to be invisible and I had gotten incredibly good at it.

A few years later, it was important for me to be visible and to cry for help because the strongest woman I know was at her weakest moment in life. She was being choked and didn’t have a voice. I was afraid for her life and got help the only way I knew how – by dialling 9-1-1. The police came. They handcuffed Dad and put him in the police car – this wasn’t the first time they had been called to our house on account of domestic violence, but it was the first time that Mom’s friends decided that it was time to get involved.

They knew some of what went on at our house. They could hear it and they knew that the police had been to our house before. But they were never willing to talk to Mom about it. Maybe they didn’t know what they would say to her or maybe they felt as if it wasn’t their “place” to say anything. But one thing is certain: Mom couldn’t escape the abuse alone. Dad owned her. Her self-esteem was at an all time low and she really believed she was good for nothing. She was afraid to leave – afraid that would put her (and me) in more danger than just enduring the pain. He paid for everything we had and was financially responsible for us. And, above all else, she truly loved him. It would have been difficult for her to make it on her own and she didn’t know the first step in getting out safely.

She was never willing to press charges and, as a result, Dad never had to sit in jail for long. Mom’s closest friends were aware of this and went to work quickly. They reminded her of what she had and helped boost her confidence. They gave her the willpower she needed to change her thinking from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can.’ They told her that his behaviour was not okay and reminded her that she had a small child who was looking up to her as an example to life.

Mom cried. She didn’t want to continue living this way, but she didn’t know how to get out, she’d been living this way for so long that it had become the norm for her. Mom’s good friend offered to let us live at her house, at least for a while, until we could figure something else out. Her friends encouraged her to move – to get out. They promised her they’d hide our location from him.

They promised we wouldn’t be alone.

Her friends helped her pack up our whole lives into a few boxes and we escaped to another town. Mom was saving herself, she was saving me, and she was doing what she had to do. She is one of the strongest women I know.

I often think about how different life would have been for both of us had Mom’s friends not gotten involved. I suspect that Mom would have continued to repeat the Battered Wife Syndrome week after week, month after month and year after year. Mom couldn’t do it alone. She didn’t have the strength; she didn’t have the finances and she didn’t have the know-how. Domestic violence IS everybody’s issue. Many women don’t know the first step to take. They need a friend. A friend they can trust; a friend who is willing to help, willing to listen without blame.

Our new life would not have been possible without the help of Mom’s friends. Know your neighbors; know your friends. If someone is hurting your friend or family member, it IS your business. Get involved. Stop domestic violence NOW!