Helping your teen have a happy and healthy relationship | Guest column

Submitted by SAFE San Juans

So, it is time for “that” discussion…Your teen receives their first love letter, we reminisce and think how adorable it is. Their first attempts at relationship:

Dear Sam,

Will you go with me?

Circle one: Yes or no

How do you begin the conversation of healthy relationships and dating? If we are honest, we can admit we still have work to do around relationships, everyone has more to learn about how to keep relationships happy, fulfilling, loving and above all else healthy. Expressing your personal and family values can be a great start to this conversation.

Basic Boundary Guidelines

Healthy dating relies on realistic relationship boundaries. It may help to consider these three categories when talking with your teen: Emotional boundaries cover things like when, how, and why your teen shares their feelings and private information, how they communicate their need for space, and how they prefer to be treated with respect and kindness.

Physical boundaries cover anything from personal space to appropriate touch.

Digital boundaries cover everything smartphone and computer-related. It is important to discuss what is and is not appropriate when texting. Talk about what sexting is, the impact of sending pictures, social media posts, emails, and old-fashioned phone calls. In the digital age, setting digital boundaries is critical, and can lay the foundation for creating healthy relationships in real life.

Healthy relationships consist of trust, honesty, respect, joy, kindness, equality, and compromise. For the most part, relationships should feel good.

Intimate partner violence among teens is a serious problem. In the United States, 10% of the students report violence, and as much as 29% report verbal or psychological abuse. Here are some signs you can tell your teen to watch out for that indicate they may be in an abusive relationship. Possessiveness is when someone is always checking on you, controlling who you are with and what you are doing… or if someone is always telling you to do something and they get angry with you for not doing it.

Jealousy might be the case when your friend is accusing you of flirting or being unfaithful and they isolate you from family and friends.

Put-downs are when someone demeans you either publicly or privately by attacking your looks, mental health, or capabilities. They compare you to others and point out your inadequacies. They blame you for all the problems in the relationship, and for any of their outbursts. They say things like, “no one else will want you.”

Threats are made against you; they yell and deliberately break things that you value. They threaten to use violence against you, your family, friends, or a pet.

Physical and intimate violence is done by pushing, shoving, or grabbing you, or making you do things you do not want to do. They harm you, your pets or family members.

Teens dating is inevitable. Taking the necessary steps in preparing our teens will give them the best opportunity for a healthy relationship. If you, or your teen need further information or resources, please contact one of the advocates at SAFE San Juans. We can be reached at 360-378-8680 Friday Harbor, 360-376-5979 Orcas, or 360-468-3788 Lopez.