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4 Ways to Start Conversations with Youth about Healthy Relationships

Parenting youth on relationships can be challenging. Here are some tips.

One of the most difficult parts of parenting is talking with children and young adults about relationships. It can feel awkward to start the conversation and even more awkward when youth respond with one or two word answers. Here are a few questions to get the conversation started so you can encourage safe dating.

Conversation Starters
It is an exceptional youth who would answer the following questions, if directly. Not because your relationship with them is bad, or because they are hiding things, but youth tend to be shy when it comes to their thoughts and feelings on personal issues.

In my experience, youth are more willing to talk about the behavior of their friends than themselves, which is why asking about their friends is a good way open the conversation. Of course, in talking about their friends, they are actually talking about themselves.

Finally, I recommend asking some of these questions early in a child’s life. The questions are appropriate for elementary through high school age, depending on how they are phrased. Personally, these questions are important to ask during the elementary years to spark good conversations about healthy relationship early. Conversations like these are perfect for car rides, cooking dinner, or any time you are hanging out with your child.

  1. When your friends “like, like” someone, what do they do to show the other person they like them?

The core of this question is flirtation. Generally speaking, we do not have conversations about the appropriate ways to flirt. Little boys and girls will sometimes hit or make fun of the person that they like. Sometimes this behavior is corrected, but often it is dismissed as part of growing up without examining the poor message it sends to children. This question opens the door to talk about appropriate ways to flirt as well as discuss consent and boundaries.

  1. How do your friends show respect to each other? How would you gain respect in a relationship?

Respect is the foundation of a healthy relationship and is shown by the way we treat each other. By initiating the conversation about respect in friendship, it can easily segue into respect in romantic relationships. One of the most important parts of healthy relationships is to ensure that both people are respected and treated equally.

  1. Are there any couples you really admire—in the family, among friends or in the community?

Having good role models for healthy relationships can be one of the most effective tools in starting the conversations and teaching good behavior. Ask them to identify why this relationship is admirable. Is it how they talk to each other? The way they interact?

  1. If a friend of yours wanted to break-up with the person they are dating, what advice would you give?

Not only does this empower youth to share their opinion, but it is also a way to talk about healthy and unhealthy behaviors leading up to, during and after a breakup.

These are just a few ways to begin the conversation. Some of these suggestions were found at Stand4Respect.org. To learn more, visit dvnconnect.org/resources.

How do you start a conversation about dating and relationships with your children? What questions do you ask?

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Chris Handberg has been the Director of the Domestic Violence Network since January 2014. His passion lies in educating our community on how to recognize and respond to domestic violence.

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