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February 2018: Healthy Adolescent Relationships

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about dating violence, promote ways to prevent it, and celebrate healthy relationships. Positive relationships with romantic partners, parents, friends, and others can contribute to social and emotional development, encourage and reinforce healthy behaviors, and lay the groundwork for successful adult relationships. Unhealthy relationships can have serious negative consequences, putting adolescents at risk for depression and anxiety, substance use, and difficulty forming relationships in the future. The HHS Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) website features a Healthy Relationships section with information on various types of adolescent relationships and tips for how parents and other adults can encourage healthy relationships. New information about healthy friendships was recently added and additional information about other types of relationships is coming soon, so check back in frequently.

  • Dating: Dating during adolescence is common and can be an excellent way for youth to learn the essentials of healthy partnerships, including mutual respect, trust, honesty, and compromise. Dating also can present challenges, such as increased likelihood of engaging in early sexual activity and risky sexual behaviors. Parents and other caring adults who talk with adolescents about relationships can help teens make healthy choices. 
  • Dating Violence and Adolescents: Dating violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual, and can have lasting consequences for adolescents. Unfortunately, one in ten adolescents who had dated reported being hit or physically hurt by someone they were dating in the past year; almost one third reported being psychologically or verbally abused; and just over one in ten reported being forced to engage in sexual behavior they did not want to engage in. Adults can prevent and reduce dating violence by modeling healthy relationships and talking with youth about the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships
  • Friendships: Positive friendships are a valuable part of adolescents’ lives, providing youth with companionship, belonging, and support as they navigate the transition to adulthood. Friends also are influential—adolescents can positively or negatively impact each other’s diet, physical activity, substance use, and school engagement. Parents and other adults can encourage healthy friendships by talking with adolescents about peer pressure and role-playing scenarios so youth can practice different strategies for saying no.  
  • Bullying: Bullying can be harmful for everyone involved and is linked to a range of negative outcomes, such as depression, substance use, and poor academic achievement. Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place through digital technology, such as social media and text messages. Parents, school staff, and other caring adults can prevent bullying by talking to adolescents about bullying and paying attention to warning signs.
  • Parent-Child Relationships: Close, supportive parent-child relationships are linked to healthy development throughout a child’s life. In adolescence, the parent’s focus shifts from protecting a young child to helping an older child make healthy decisions on their own. Adolescents benefit when parents communicate openly and set effective, age-appropriate limits—not always an easy task. Luckily, there are many practical tips for parents who want to adopt positive parenting techniques to build stronger relationships with their children. OAH will soon add new information about parent-child relationships to the site.
  • LGBT Youth: While many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth thrive during adolescence, as a group they are at greater risk than their heterosexual peers for violence exposure, depression, substance use, suicide, and risky sexual behaviors. Schools can support LGBT youth by sponsoring inclusive clubs, prohibiting bullying, and identifying safe spaces where students can receive support. Parents can help their LGBT adolescents by having open and honest conversations, being supportive and accepting, and talking about risky sexual behaviors and situations.

Share Healthy Relationships Information with Your Colleagues

Spread the word about healthy relationships with these sample social media posts:

Facebook:

  • February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month! Parents and other caring adults, help prevent and reduce dating violence by talking with your teen about healthy adolescent relationships. OAH’s healthy relationships section has information to help you get started: http://bit.ly/2pS5dLN  
  • Parents: Want to learn more about healthy adolescent relationships? OAH’s healthy relationships section has info and resources on dating, friendships, bullying, and more: http://bit.ly/2pS5dLN

Twitter:

  • February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month! @TeenHealthGov has info on healthy relationships to help you spread awareness and talk with adolescents: http://bit.ly/2pS5dLN #teenDVmonth
  • NEW from @TeenHealthGov: All about healthy friendships! Why they’re important, difficulties teens may encounter, and what adults can do to support positive them: http://bit.ly/2C5DwVa
  • #Parents: @TeenHealthGov has new information on healthy adolescent relationships. Get the info you need to talk to your teen and help stop #datingviolence: http://bit.ly/2pS5dLN #teenDVmonth
  • Know any teens in unhealthy relationships? Visit @TeenHealthGov’s healthy relationships section to get the info you need to help stop #datingviolence and #bullying: http://bit.ly/2pS5dLN #teenDVmonth
  • Being a teen can present many challenges but having a supportive friend helps. See how friendships can have a positive impact on adolescents in @TeenHealthGov’s healthy friendships section: http://bit.ly/2C5DwVa
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on August 23, 2018