Teen dating: Teach them about healthy relationships

Teen dating violence is a serious problem in this country. According to a national survey 10 percent of teens, female and male, were victims of physical dating violence over the past year and 29 percent of adolescents were verbally or psychologically abused. Children grow up in the environment provided by parents and extended families. They live what they learn there. Parents are obligated to teach their children how to have healthy relationships that last.

Andrea experienced a lot of stress in her world. She was confused and doubtful about herself and her life partner. She was afraid to leave and afraid to stay. What if she made the biggest mistake of her life with difficult consequences to live with for the rest of her life, especially since her daughter had asked, “How you leave someone you can’t breathe without?” The question had stopped her in her tracks. She had learned that people could become addicted to their partners.

She hadn’t had time to reckon whether her marriage was a healthy one or not. But she had seen how couples worked – or not. She envied relationships where the partners trusted, communicated with and supported each other in their goals, dreams and interests. They were individuals who could stand alone when they needed to but worked well together on their shared goals of building a life together.

That didn’t mean they never had disagreements, arguments or never got angry. It was that they worked things out, were able to compromise, fight fair, and try to understand where the other one was coming from. They respected each other. And they accomplished so much more than couples who always pulled in opposite directions, getting in each others’ way, getting absolutely nowhere because they couldn’t agree on anything, or even communicate with each other.

A hostile environment within the family was a battleground where there shouldn’t be a war. There were lies and deceit (“What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”) There was disrespect that often was subtle, perhaps passive-aggressive. (Passive-aggression gives the user power over someone else’s life, to control the other person’s behavior.) No physical violence was needed when intimidation was so effective in putting one in her place and keeping her there. It was good to know to set boundaries and detach from the cause of the hostility.

There are some things to keep in mind in relationships and to share with your teens when they begin to date. They need to know about mutual respect and they need to see it in action. Trust is strengthened by honesty. Lies and deceit may be hidden for a while, but they will emerge and trust will be destroyed. Compromise, individuality, good communication, controlling anger, fighting fair, solving problems together, understanding where the other person is coming from, all are part of healthy relationship building. Both partners in a relationship deserve to be respected – but respect is earned, not just blindly offered. Neither partner should exert control or power over the other.

Parents have a great deal of influence over their children, more than they may think. If your relationship isn’t a healthy one, what are you teaching your children? Teach your teens about healthy relationships. The teaching should begin at home.

For more information about teen dating violence, visit youth.gov, a website provided by the U.S. government to keep up with the latest youth-related news.

Be sure to tune in to WKBN 27 at 7 p.m. March 8 as 27 Investigates the Heroin Crisis: The Journey Through Addiction. Family Recovery Center is one of four sponsors of this event and will be participating on the panel and phone bank.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and contracts with school districts (currently Lisbon and Leetonia) in our county.

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