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.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Celebrate Healthy Relationships This Valentine’s Day

On the surface, the focus of Valentine’s Day seems to be teddy bears and gifts but the deeper meaning of the day lies in relationships — the one you have with yourself and those you have with others. Today, take time to reflect on the different people in your life and your relationships with them. Are you being an active participant in all of your relationships? A good friend, parent or partner?

This Valentine’s Day, celebrate the healthy relationships in your life by realizing what makes them great and by thinking of ways you could make them even better. Here are some ideas for how to deepen the bonds you share with your loved ones.

For your friends:
Are your friendships two-sided, with each of you giving the other support? Take time today to make sure you’re being the best friend you can be. Be there for your buddies in a way that’s focused on them. Practice “active listening”  by using clarifying phrases to make sure you know what they are saying. For example,”What I’m hearing you say is _______. Is that right?”  Use eye contact during a conversation. Don’t assume anything, and don’t spend time planning what you’ll say next instead of listening to what they’re saying now.

For you:
There’s no better time to focus on self-care than this Valentine’s Day. Give yourself the gift of paying a little more attention to #1 today (yes, that’s you!). By working on having a strong, healthy relationship with yourself, you’ll be better equipped to thrive in healthy relationships with friends and loved ones.

If you are a survivor of an abusive relationship and today is a difficult time for you, make sure to focus on your well-being and try to steer clear of things that will remind you of an ex, like the place you always went to dinner together, or a song you both loved.  If you’re worried that you might be tempted to your ex, schedule activities with friends to keep you busy and have people you can call. Don’t forget that we’re available at The Hotline, toll free, and 24/7. Call us at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).

For your community:
February is a great time to give back in some way to your community, because it’s National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. One of the best ways to get the word out is to talk to the schools in your community — attend a PTA meeting and bring handouts for example. Download the teenDVmonth Toolkit which includes pledges, “how to” guides, prep manuals and more.

For your children:
In fostering a healthy relationship with your children, communication and dialogue are key. Take today to talk about healthy dating with your children and the young people in your life. Explain to them that in a healthy relationship, both partners feel free to be themselves and set the boundaries they want. Partners should respect these boundaries and be supportive of each others differences. Stress the importance of communication — and let it begin with this conversation between the two of you. If they want to text or talk on the phone to an advocate their own age, they can call the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 77054.

For your partner:
Healthy relationships are all about respecting and honoring boundaries, but when you’re in a close relationship with someone this might sometimes fall by the wayside. Today, make a special effort to honor your partner’s boundaries, big or small. Does it drive them crazy when you leave the dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher? Are they bothered when you show up late to places? Make that extra little effort to try respect their needs, even if it’s as simple as washing dishes and setting your watch back a few minutes. Honoring your partner’s boundaries now will prevent the little things from turning into bigger things later on — it will be a gift for both of you!

What are some ways you plan on celebrating the relationships in your life?

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

On January 31st, just over a week after he had been officially inducted into office for a second term, President Barack Obama made a direct address, endorsing February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

In his official address, Obama declared: “This month, we stand with those who have known the pain and isolation of an abusive relationship, and we recommit to ending the cycle of violence that affects too many of our sons and daughters.”

President Obama and his administration continue to make preventing abuse a priority, through initiatives such as Vice President Joe Biden’s 1 is 2 many, committing to reduce violence against young women.

According to the organization Loveisrespect, one in three teens in the US is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a partner. While teen dating violence can happen to anyone, the majority of the violence affects young women. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence- this is almost triple the national average.

As encouraged by President Obama, let February be a month for taking a stand against dating violence in whatever way you can. Talk to teachers at your local high school, bring up dating violence at the next school board meeting, and have a conversation with the teens in your life about healthy relationships. A great resource to share with them is the website loveisrespect, which has safety planning tips, relevant blog posts and more.

Want to know how to help a teen loved one experiencing abuse? Call our advocates today at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). Also, stay tuned into our blog for upcoming posts with resources and ways to empower your teen if they are experiencing dating violence.


1is2Many Campaign PSA

On June 21, the White House unveiled a PSA supporting Vice President Biden’s 1is2Many campaign, a landmark effort to end dating violence. Last year, Vice President Biden launched the 1is2Many initiative to focus on a troubling fact—women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of relationship violence. The PSA features President Obama, Vice President Biden and many male sports leaders including Eli Manning, Jeremy Lin, Jimmy Rollins, Eva Longoria, David Beckham, Joe Torre and Andy Katz.

Young women still face the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. In the last year, one in 10 teens have reported being physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. One in five young women have been sexually assaulted while they’re in college.

The 1is2Many campaign has consistently used The National Dating Abuse Helpline as a resource for young adults to seek help. If you or someone you know is under the age of 24 and would like to speak to a peer advocate about your relationship, text “loveis” to 77054 or chat online at or call 1-866-331-9474.

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 Awareness

Regional Town Hall on Engaging Men and Stopping Violence Against Women

Townhall The Hotline President Katie Ray-Jones and Youth Advisory Board Member Angela Garcia-Ditta from Austin participated in a town hall meeting convened by Vice President Joe Biden in Dallas on October 25, 2011. The two served on the panel, fielding questions from audience members around the issue of domestic violence, especially as it’s seen on college campuses. Students from several local Texas universities were in attendance.

Vice President Biden convened town hall meetings in 10 states across the country to focus on domestic violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. The goal was to get more men involved in speaking out against dating abuse and domestic violence.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

First Dating Abuse Texting Service Launches

On September 27,, a partnership between the National Dating Abuse Helpline and Break the Cycle, announced the nation’s first dating abuse texting service. Teens and 20-somethings can now ask questions about healthy relationships simply by texting “loveis” to 77054 to directly connect to a peer advocate.

Vice President Joe Biden premiered the service on September 26, sending the first text to peer advocate Whitney Laas, thanking advocates for their work to end dating abuse.

An additional feature of the brand’s re-launch is the updated website. The new site contains interactive quizzes as well as expanded information about LGBTQ dating, legal support and digital abuse. As always, the innovative online chat is still accessible through the website. Also as an added feature, young adults will now be able to receive services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The re-launch of was made possible by the Office on Violence Against Women, Liz Claiborne Inc., Healthy Kids Healthy Families and the Verizon Foundation. To learn more, please visit


On the Lines- loveisrespect, September 2010

My caller was 15 years old, in her first dating relationship. A friend of hers had sent her a link in a Facebook message: “Does Your Relationship Need a Make-Over?” She had taken the quiz, and the results were a little disturbing for her.

She told me that her boyfriend was pretty cool in front of other people, but he got jealous easily. He got angry and called her names when she talked to other guys at social events. He went through her phone to see who she had called and texted. He threatened to dump her if she hung out with her guy friends, but he would throw or punch things if she mentioned breaking up with him.

“My friend is protective and hates the way my boyfriend treats me, but I never thought much of it until I saw it in black and white on the quiz. I just thought this was how dating was supposed to be.”

I told my caller that she didn’t have to put up with controlling behavior in order to be in a relationship; she deserves to be treated with respect.  We talked about the dynamics of a healthy relationship and some of the red flags in her relationship.

“Thanks,” the caller said at the end of the call. “I’m glad my friend sent me that quiz, but I’m really glad that I called. It’s good to know that I have options.”

National Domestic Violence Hotline Awareness

Letter from the President

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

In October of 1981, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence organized a “Day of Unity.” On that day, thirty years ago, advocates from across the country joined together in their commitment to end domestic violence. The “Day of Unity” evolved into a full week of activities designed to promote awareness, and that week gradually progressed into the Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The first official Domestic Violence Awareness Month was held in October of 1987; it preceded the launch of the National Domestic Violence Hotline by nearly a decade. The Hotline was fortunate to enter into such a rich tradition, and year by year, we are honored to provide a platform for some of the most important voices in the movement: survivors, advocates, friends, and families. Every year, Domestic Violence Awareness Month holds a special place in our hearts. Its mission mirrors the mission that we strive to uphold 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: to give hope and a voice to those who have been affected by domestic violence across the nation. To date, the Hotline has held space for over 2.5 million voices, and we continue to receive over 22,500 calls per month.

On October 4th, the Hotline has the privilege to join the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence in the 2011 National Call of Unity. Much like the “Day of Unity” thirty years ago, the National Call of Unity continues in the vital tradition of honoring those affected by intimate partner violence across the nation and uniting the advocates working on their behalf. We will hear from Kalyn Risker, founder of SAFE: Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment, as she shares the story of her own incredible journey. Then, following a collective moment of silence, artists Sunni Patterson and Asia Rainey will share a dramatic recitation they have prepared for the occasion.

In addition, this month we celebrate with The National Dating Abuse Helpline and Break the Cycle, who just launched the new now offers 24 hour advocacy for those experiencing dating abuse, and we are excited to announce that help is now available via text! On September 27th the service was first used by Vice President Joe Biden, and on September 28th this breakthrough was featured on “The View.” The website is also full of new features and information, including new segments for those in the LGBTQ community, those seeking legal assistance, and those experiencing digital abuse.

Thank you so much for your support – past, present, and future – of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and It is an honor to serve those affected by domestic and dating abuse, and it is to our continued delight that we are able to share in this work with you.





Katie Ray Jones
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Dating Abuse Helpline