Talking to your kids about dating and healthy relationships

  • Published
  • By Tracy Snider
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Violence Prevention

 -- Technology has transformed how kids grow up. Today’s tech-savvy middle and highschoolers are able to look in places online for information and advice on dating, relationships and sex. Parents may be unaware and/or feel a loss of control. The good news is parents can empower their kids by modeling healthy relationships and starting the conversation by showing they are available – even when the topic is uncomfortable.

As parents, you want the opportunity to establish values such as honesty, respect, trust, and boundaries early on so kids develop healthy attitudes that can carry them as they develop into adulthood. You can open the conversation by asking your child’s opinions and expectations. 

  • What does it mean to go out on a date?
  • What does it mean to have a boyfriend or girlfriend?
  • How do you expect that person will treat you?
  • What rules do think we should have for when you can date?

By talking with your child and allowing her/him to feel safe being honest with you, will pay off in further value-laden conversations. 

As a parent, you need to also set healthy limits for your teen. Despite wanting their independence, rules offer kids a sense of security and teach them how to set their own personal boundaries. These rules should include the age they can begin to go on dates, the type of couples or group outings they will be allowed to attend, curfews, check-ins and limits to sexual experiences.  Again, kids may not say “thanks mom and dad for setting rules” but rules can help kids resist peer pressure.

Setting healthy boundaries includes talking about warning signs of unhealthy relationships.  Kids need to know trust has degrees and negative experiences can and do happen.  Warning signs include constant calls or texts; controlling behavior, including isolation from friends and family; use of physical force or threats of violence during arguments; verbal put-downs or abuse; and use of force or high-pressure tactics to initiate intimate contact. 

Visuals that can help include the following wheels above, adapted from developed from Domestic Abuse Intervention Project Duluth, MN and

Sites for parents and teens on teen dating violence and healthy relationships:

For more information, please contact your Violence Prevention Integrator:

RAF Alconbury, Mr Kevin Carrico, 268-1256

RAF Croughton, Ms Tracy Snider, 236-8271