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 a dating partner's behavior
- Fearfulness around a dating partner
- Loss of interest in school or activities that were once enjoyable
- Suspicious bruises, scratches or other injuries
Teens who are in abusive relationships are at increased risk of long-term consequences, including poor academic performance, binge drinking and suicide attempts. The emotional impact of unhealthy relationships may also be lasting, increasing the likelihood of future unhappy, violent relationships.
The lessons teens learn today about respect, healthy relationships, and what is right or wrong will carry over into their future relationships. It's important to talk with your teen now about what does and doesn't constitute a healthy relationship.
Responding to behavior
If your teen becomes sexually active — whether you think he or she is ready or not — it may be more important than ever to 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. You might talk about keeping a sexual relationship exclusive, not only as a matter of trust and respect but also to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Also set and enforce reasonable boundaries, such as curfews and rules about visits from friends of the opposite sex.
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 (HPV) vaccination, for both girls and boys, to help prevent genital warts as well as cancers of the cervix, anus, mouth and throat, and penis.
With your support, your teen can emerge into a sexually responsible adult. Be honest and speak from the heart. If your teen doesn't seem interested in what you have to say about sex, say it anyway. He or she is probably listening.
Aug. 02, 2017
See more In-depth
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- Forcier F. Adolescent sexuality. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 4, 2017.
- Widman L, et al. Parent-adolescent sexual communication and adolescent safer sex behavior: A meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics. 2016;170:52.
- Potter J, et al. Predictors of parental knowledge of adolescent sexual experience: United States, 2012. Preventive Medicine Reports. 2017;6:94.
- Ashcraft AM, et al. Talking to parents about adolescent sexuality. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2017;64:305.
- Chacko MR. Contraception: Overview of issues specific to adolescents. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 4, 2017.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): Questions and answers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/questions-answers.html. Accessed May 4, 2017.
- Understanding teen dating violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/teen-dating-violence-factsheet-a.pdf. Accessed May 4, 2017.
- Black B, et al. Parental responses to youths' report of teen dating violence: Recommendations from parents and youth. Journal of Adolescence. 2016;51:144.
- Frequently asked questions. Especially for teens FAQ042. You and your sexuality (especially for teens). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/You-and-Your-Sexuality-Especially-for-Teens. Accessed May 4, 2017.
- Conversation tools. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/resources-and-training/for-families/conversation-tools/index.html. Accessed May 4, 2017.
- LGBT: Families. Youth.gov. http://youth.gov/youth-topics/lgbtq-youth/families. Accessed May 4, 2017.