The YWCA Central Alabama is dedicated to educating young people about the dangers of dating violence through its Healthy Relationships program. Through this program, AmeriCorps Members go into middle and high schools to teach the students about what healthy relationships really look like. At the conclusion of the program at each school, students will be decorating hearts and answering two important questions: “I refuse to abuse because…” or “I refuse to be abused because…” Toward the end of the month, we will collect all of these hearts and display them in the YWCA lobby.
For those students and for everyone else who needs to refresh their memory on what a healthy relationship is, I’ve put together a list of the top 10 safe dating tips for teens. It is my hope that everyone who reads this article will share these tips with their friends and family members, and also put them to practice in their own lives. I believe that if we all work together, we can change the idea of what constitutes a healthy relationship and make our community one that thrives on healthy relationships.
1. Get to know a person well before you begin dating; hang out with them in groups and find out about their reputation from trusted friends.
2. Assert yourself when necessary. Be clear and firm in your relationships about boundaries and expectations.
3. Practice “SAFE” skills to resolve conflict in a relationship: Stay calm, Ask questions instead of jumping to conclusions, Find out how each of you feels, and Exchange ideas for a possible solution.
4. Look out for the red flags of abuse such as controlling or possessive behavior, extreme jealousy or anger and any form of physical or emotional harm. These are warning signs that abuse could escalate.
5. Trust your instincts. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, be calm, and think of a way to remove yourself from the situation.
6. If you feel unsafe in a relationship, work with an adult or friend to create a safety plan before breaking up with your dating partner.
7. If your friend is being abused, listen to them, believe their story and let them know they do not deserve to be mistreated.
8. Abuse won’t just go away if you ignore it. Seek help from a trusted friend or a local hotline such as the YWCA Crisis Line at (205) 322-4878.
9. Respect each other’s feelings and thoughts about when, where and how affection is expressed in the relationship.
10. Seek out fun, healthy relationships where you and your partner are both free to be yourselves and enjoy each other’s company!