Talking to your teen about romance, sex, and dating can be uncomfortable. But whether your teen is already dating or is reaching that age, it’s still crucial to talk to your child about healthy relationships—and unhealthy behaviors they may face, particularly dating violence.

Here are a few tips from our behavioral health experts to help you start that conversation.

Be Positive.

Violence from someone your child cares about can be a scary topic. So try not to kick the conversation off with dire warnings and negative consequences. Instead, a great starting point would be to ask your teen about what they like about themselves and which traits will contribute to a positive dating experience. By communicating how they intend to treat the person they’re in a relationship with, you can help them shape their expectations for how they should be treated.

Educate Your Teen.

Explain that abuse in a relationship can be verbal, physical, psychological and sexual. Let your child know that it can happen at any age—and in every relationship, whether heterosexual, same-gender or nonbinary.

Sadly, 44 percent of lesbian and 61 percent of bisexual women have experienced physical abuse and rape by someone they were dating. If your teen is in a heterosexual relationship, the statistics are still quite high, with 35 percent of heterosexual women experiencing the same type of violent behavior. Men may also suffer through dating abuse: 29 percent of heterosexual men have experienced rape, stalking and physical abuse with an intimate partner, while 26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men have reported the same experiences.

Discuss the Warning Signs.

Teach teens to look for the signs of intimate partner abuse within their relationships and empower them to stand up for friends that they may observe to be in an unhealthy and destructive relationship. Talk about warning signs such as unexplained injuries, extreme jealousy and excessive possessiveness. It’s also important to admit to your teen that you don’t know all the answers and aren’t an expert on dating violence—but that you’re always here to listen and help them find solutions. By being honest with your teen, you build trust.

Show Your Support.

It’s essential to take a clear stand that you will not tolerate controlling behavior, abusive language, disrespect and other violent acts. However, it’s also crucial to show your teen that you trust and support them, stressing that you have faith that they will come to you if they feel they may be in an unhealthy relationship.

And while it’s hard to accept, there’s a possibility that your teen is not on the receiving end of the abuse but the one who is exhibiting abusive or violent behavior. If this is the case, your teen should also know that they can come to you to work through their issues together.

And it can always help to speak with a counselor or therapist. Get in touch with Communicare to discuss how we can help you talk to your teen about healthy relationships and dating violence.