Healthy vs. unhealthy relationships

Teens and adults are often unaware of how regularly dating violence occurs, so it is important to get the facts and share them with your teen. Parents also should be alert to warning signs that a teen may be a victim of dating violence, such as:

  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Avoidance of friends and social events
  • Excusing their dating partner's behavior
  • Fearfulness around their dating partner
  • Loss of interest in school or activities that were once enjoyable
  • Suspicious bruises, scratches or other injuries

Teens who are abusive toward their partners are at risk of legal problems as well as emotional consequences. If they don't get help, these teens often develop lifelong patterns of unhealthy, unhappy relationships.

The lessons teens learn today about respect, healthy relationships, and what is right or wrong will carry over into their future relationships. Therefore, it's important to talk with your teen about what does and doesn't constitute a healthy relationship.

When your teen is sexually active

If your teen becomes sexually active — whether you think he or she is ready or not — keep the conversation going. State your feelings openly and honestly. Remind your teen that you expect him or her to take sex and the associated responsibilities seriously. Stress the importance of safe sex, and make sure your teen understands how to get and use contraception.

Your teen's doctor can help, too. A routine checkup can give your teen the opportunity to address sexual activity and other behaviors in a supportive, confidential atmosphere — as well as learn about contraception and safe sex. The doctor may also stress the importance of routine human papillomavirus vaccination to help prevent genital warts and cervical cancer.

Looking ahead

With your support, your teen can emerge into a sexually responsible adult. Be honest and speak from the heart. Don't be discouraged if your teen doesn't seem interested in what you have to say about sex. Say it anyway. Studies show that teens whose parents talk openly about sex are more responsible in their sexual behavior.

Nov. 18, 2011 See more In-depth