February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month. It is the time that we, as a society, should be making a conscience effort to educate and inform our teens about the importance of establishing healthy relationships, setting boundaries, knowing the signs of abuse and what to do if you find yourself in an abusive situation.
The problem is, in my opinion, we still have too many adults who are not aware that this month has been set aside for such a purpose. We still have too many adults who don’t quite understand abuse themselves, and therefore, simply cannot educate young people about it. There are too many adults that are still living in their own fear of their abuser, what people will think of them if they tell anyone about being abused (past or present) or struggling with their own lack of self esteem and self worth. I was one of those adults. I always knew that I didn’t want my children to be in unhealthy relationships, but I wasn’t providing them with a positive role models. Nor did I spend as much time as I should have in seeking them out. Although we’ve worked through a lot of our individual and collective hurts regarding the aftermath of abuse, it is still something that I regret.
Thankfully, I am a different person, and I have been able to speak to teens and tweens about abuse and reassure them that it’s not their fault, talk to someone they trust and that help/resources are available. What I enjoy most is talking with the parents and the children at the same time. It gives me the opportunity to in turn, tell the parents to BE the person that their child CAN talk to and trust, face their own fears, leave the unhealthy relationship and know that help and resources are available for them as well as their children. I also like to remind people that they are talking to young people, so if it’s difficult for you to know what direction to take, consider that it’s that much more difficult for a child.
Be sure to search for programs that mentor teens and find out if domestic violence/teen dating violence is covered in their programs. If not, then make the suggestion to have it included. I welcome the opportunity to provide insights that will assist in making our young people feel safe and educated.