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March 13: Fumigation certification, New Salem

March 19: General pesticide certification, Morton County Courthouse, Mandan

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month across the nation. One in four North Dakota high school students (27.2 percent) have experienced controlling behavior or emotional abuse in their dating relationships, according to www.ParentsLead.com. As a parent, family member or other adult in a teenager’s life, it is important to recognize the role you play in teaching teens about healthy relationships. This is done by providing guidance and support while being sure to have ongoing conversations with the teen about healthy dating relationships.

Parents Lead offers resources for parents/caregivers of youth on topics such as healthy teen dating relationships as well as substance use and mental health. Their website includes a resource outlining the characteristics of a healthy dating relationship. We may assume teens “just know” that violence is unhealthy. However, there is a broad range of controlling and harmful behaviors that teens may not recognize or that they may dismiss due to the relationship. Below are some strategies for encouraging healthy relationships.

• Start the conversation and really listen. Having important conversations about healthy relationships early and often will build a positive connection that can empower your teen to recognize when something is not right.

• Be a strong voice and their best excuse. Clearly express family values and expectations related to sexual activity, drugs, alcohol and dating. Let them fall back on you as an excuse not to put themselves in risky situations.

• Use teachable moments. Ask your teen their opinion about unhealthy relationship messages in music lyrics or on TV and movies. Use these examples of unhealthy relationships or behaviors to guide discussion about why they are unhealthy and to reinforce your family values and expectations.

• Get to know your teen’s friends and dating partners. Welcome them into your home for dinner, family time or movie night. Observe how the guests behave in your presence and how your teen behaves when they are around. Afterward, use the experience as an open door to discuss your teen’s relationship.

• Encourage and model safe and healthy relationships. Your teen learns what to expect and how to act in their relationships by observing yours. Discuss what a healthy relationship looks like, feels like, and sounds like.

This information is adapted from the Parents Lead website; learn more by visiting www.parentslead.org/parents/promoting-healthy-teen-dating-relationships. If you or your teen is in an abusive or unsafe relationship, get help now. Call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, 888-293-6118. Visit www.loveisrespect.org to chat with someone online.

Share these resources with your teen — perhaps they can share with friends who may be impacted or spread awareness on social media about February being National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month with the hashtag #loveisrespect.

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Liz Larson is the parent educator for the NDSU Extension Parent Resource Center Region VII. Larson has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Luther College in Iowa and started with Extension in 2016.

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