February is Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month: a national effort to raise awareness about dating violence and promote healthy relationships. Did you know that while 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, 58% of those parents could not correctly identify all of the warning signs of abuse. Additionally, over 80% of parents report that they don’t believe teen dating violence is a concern and yet girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence; that is almost triple the national average. One way we encourage you to raise awareness this year is through having conversations with your children about age-appropriate topics. Below, you can find an outline of talking tips and questions that can help you start a conversation.
Talking Tips for Ages 1-5
While this may seem like a young age to start talking about dating, remember that it is never too early to talk about consent and respect. Remind your child that:
- “No” and “stop” are important words and should be honored.
- We need to ask permission before touching or embracing a playmate.
- We need to help others who may be in trouble.
Questions for Ages 6-11
Because children at this age are beginning to socialize with peers that are close to their age, it is important to remember that teaching children to respect one another’s space helps grow empathy. Some questions that you ask to start conversations include:
- What does it mean to “like someone”?
- What does respect look like?
- Is there anything about relationships that you would like to ask me?
Questions for Ages 12-15
Children in this age group especially have strong feelings that they need help handling. One mistake that parents make when discussing consent is that they have limited talks with their children – and male children get starkly different talks than female children. Here are some questions that can start conversations:
- What do you think about having a boyfriend/ girlfriend?
- How do you like to be treated?
- Are any of your friends dating?
- How do you know whether your partner is ready to kiss you?
- How do you think people who are dating should treat each other?
Questions for Ages 16 & up
While teens might be learning about issues like birth control, rape, and sexually transmitted infections, they are lacking knowledge that they both needd and crave regarding consent and healthy relationships. Be careful about the language you use with your children about these topics to make sure they understand that the responsibility is never on the victim to have prevented his or her assault. Here are some questions that can start conversations:
- How will you know when you’ve had too much to drink?
- How does your behavior change when you’ve had too much to drink?
- How will you know whether it’s okay to kiss someone, touch someone, or have sex with someone when you’ve had a lot to drink?
- Can a person who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol consent to sex?
- Do you have to consent to sex after the first time you have intercourse?
- What does safe sex have to do with consent?
- Have you heard of sexting? Tell me what you think it is.
- Has anyone ever asked or pressured you to send a nude or sexual picture? Has anyone ever sent you one?
- Do you know what could happen to you if you send or forward a sexual text message or naked picture with your cell phone?
For more information, or for help navigating these situations, give us a call at 1.800.373.1043.