Author: Alison Johnson
A significant number of tweens and teens suffer some kind of abuse in their early relationships with boyfriends or girlfriends, whether the damage is psychological or physical, according to a new study (http://news.yahoo.com/dating-violence-common-7th-grade-survey-180408970.html).
By 7th grade, many middle school students reported dealing with one or more of these behaviors: controlling partners who didn't allow them to do things with others; bullying and name-calling online or via text messages; sexual harrassment (being touched inappropriately or subjected to comments or jokes that made them uncomfortable); or being pushed, grabbed or kicked.
As for parents who think dating doesn't really happen at such a young age, three-quarters of students reported that they'd already had a boyfriend or girlfriend by their middle school years.
Researchers say all of the findings point to the importance of talking to kids openly about dating rules, sex and what makes a healthy relationship. High school may be too late, reports Peter Long, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation. That group co-sponsored the survey of more than 1,400 students with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the organization Futures Without Violence.
According to the National Health Information Center in Washington, D.C., a government agency, signs of a healthy relationship include:
- Both people feel respected, supported, and valued
- Decisions are made together
- Both people have friends and interests outside of the relationship
- Disagreements are settled with open and honest communication
- There are more good times than bad
In an unhealthy relationship, one person tries to change the other; one person makes most or all of the decisions; one or both people drop friends and interests outside of the relationship; one person yells, threatens, hits, or throws things during arguments; one person makes fun of the other’s opinions or interests; one person keeps track of the other all the time by calling, texting, or checking in with other friends; and there are more bad times than good.
The middle school survey found that nearly 75 percent of tweens and young teens have talked to their parents about dating recently-- meaning parents can have a real impact on how kids treat each other and what they'll accept in their relationships. Open-ended questions can be best for getting kids talking, experts say. Such as: why do you want to be in a relationship? What qualities do you want in the person you are dating? What would you do if you didn't like how a person was treating you, including pressuring you to do things you don't feel ready for? How does the person make you feel about yourself? Parents also can set a powerful example by showing respect and kindness to their own significant others.
As usual with parenting, the bottom line is to keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. You may help spare your young dater some heartache.