Open and Honest Communication for Teens

By Eleanor Beeslaar

Open and honest communication is an important part of building a healthy relationship. When you and your partner can speak freely with respect, compassion, and genuine concern for one another’s feelings, you can create a relationship where you both feel valued, safe, and accepted.

Here are some tips to help you communicate better in your relationships:

  • Aim for understanding:Try your best to understand one another’s point of view and avoid making assumptions.


  • Listen: Focus on what your partner is trying to tell you instead of thinking about your next point or comeback.
  • Compromise: Work with your partner to come up with a solution that meets both of your needs.
  • Avoid hurtful language: It is easy to fall back on insults and hurtful words when we are upset, but it is important to avoid saying things that will hurt your partner’s feelings.
  • Be respectful: It is important to show respect and concern for your partner’s feelings, even when experiencing intense emotions.
  • Find the right time to talk: Set up a time to talk about something that is really bothering you. This will help ensure that you and your partner will both be calm and the conversation won’t be rushed.
  • Talk face to face: Avoid texting about serious issues and talk in-person instead; this will help avoid miscommunication. If you have trouble collecting your thoughts, write them down before you talk.
  • Avoid personal attacks: Avoid “you statements” and absolutes, such as “you always” or “you never.” These can lead to defensiveness and hinder your partner’s receptiveness to what you are trying to say. Instead, use “I statements” and talk about how a problem makes you feel.
  • Be honest: Agree to be honest with one another, and admit to your mistakes and apologize.
  • Be aware of your body language: Show your partner that you are paying attention to them through your body language. Turn towards them when they are talking, maintain eye contact, and listen and respond to what they are saying. Be sure to avoid distractions, such as checking your phone.
  • The 48 hour rule: If you were not able to talk to your partner after they said or did something that upset you, and you still feel upset after 48 hours, address it with your partner. If not, consider letting it go.


Healthy communication isn’t always easy and takes a conscious effort, especially when you’re angry. Though it’s okay to feel angry in your relationship, it’s important to communicate these feelings in a healthy way that promotes conflict resolution.

Here are some helpful steps to consider when communicating while feeling angry:


  • Stop: If you get really upset or angry, stop and breathe. You can respectfully tell your partner that you need some time to cool down before talking. This can keep the situation from escalating and help you communicate more effectively when it is revisited.
  • Think: When you have calmed down, think about why you felt so upset or angry about the situation. This will help you find the root of the problem and communicate your feelings to your partner.
  • Talk: Talk to your partner about the situation and why you felt angry or upset. Remember to keep the tips we talked about earlier in mind!
  • Listen: Listen to what your partner has to say. You both deserve an opportunity to express how you feel.


The tips and strategies above are not only useful when communicating within a dating relationship. In fact, they can enhance communication in all types of relationships! We encourage you to try some of these strategies the next time you communicate with your partner, a friend, a parent, or a sibling!

The information in this post was adapted from Visit for more information.


References (2017). Tips for Better Communication. Retrieved from

What is an Unhealthy Relationship?

By Eleanor Beeslaar

Unhealthy relationships are based on power and control and can leave you feeling sad, afraid, lonely, worried and unsafe. It is important to be aware of the signs of unhealthy relationship behaviors, because even if they do not seem like a big deal at first, these behaviors can lead to relationship violence/abuse.

We know that unhealthy relationships are unsafe and can cause adverse effects, but what exactly do they look like? Though all unhealthy relationships are based on power and control, the behaviors and characteristics within these relationships may look very different. Abuse does not have a one size fits all definition and can take many forms, some of which are very subtle. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when talking about dating violence or abuse is physical violence. Though this is a form of dating violence, there are many other ways that abuse can be present in relationships, including: emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, and even digital abuse (, 2017). Below are the characteristics and behaviors that make up these different forms of abuse:


Type of Abuse Definition Examples
Physical Abuse Physical abuse involves any intentional and unwanted contact. It does not always cause pain or leave marks, such as bruises; however, it is still abuse (, 2017).
  • Scratching, punching, hitting, biting, etc.
  • Hair pulling
  • Pushing
  • Using a weapon
  • Throwing inanimate objects at you.
Emotional Emotional abuse involves harming a partner’s sense of self-worth and self-esteem (CDC, 2014).
  • Constant criticism
  • Shaming
  • Embarrassing a partner on purpose
  • Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.
Verbal Abuse Verbal abuse involves the use of language to hurt and tear someone down (, 2017).
  • Threatening
  • Name calling
  • Putting down
  • Discounting or invalidating your feelings.
  • Withholding
Sexual Abuse Sexual abuse occurs when a partner pressures or forces you to engage in a sexual act that you do not or cannot consent to (CDC, 2014).
  • Unwanted kissing or touching
  • Sexual contact with someone who is intoxicated, unconscious, or otherwise unable to give consent.
  • Refusing to use condoms or restricting someone’s access to birth control.
  • Rape/attempted rape
Stalking Stalking occurs when someone repeatedly watches, follows, or harrasses you, causing you to be afraid and feel unsafe (CDC, 2014;, 2017).
  • Sending unwanted text messages, emails, or letters
  • Constantly calling and hanging up
  • Leaving unwanted gifts
  • Showing up at your school, workplace, or home uninvited
  • Tracking you through social media or other technology
Digital Abuse Digital abuse involves the use of technology (texting or social media) to harass or intimidate a partner (, 2017).
  • Monitors who you can be friends with on social media sites
  • Sends you negative/threatening messages through text or social media
  • Sending you unwanted explicit messages and/or demanding them in return

The information in the above chart has been adapted from (2017) and the CDC Understanding Teen Dating Violence Fact Sheet (2014). For more information visit and

With the continuous rise of technology, digital abuse has become increasingly more common, especially among teens, and it is something that we should be readily aware of. Connecting online is easy and fun, and it is much more common to form friendships and romantic relationships in this way. Though forming relationships online is normal and okay, it is important to remember that with this, comes the danger of online harassment, abuse, and even deceit from people who pretend to be someone they are not in order to do harm. The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from digital abuse is to be careful, be aware of the warning signs, and reach out for help if you need it! Check out this video of a young woman telling her story of digital abuse, and be sure to look at the description for helpful resources about relationship abuse:

An important part of preventing teen dating violence is being aware of the warning signs. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the warning signs below!

  • Checking your text messages or social media without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Isolating someone from friends or family
  • Telling someone what to do or what to wear
  • An explosive temper
  • Making false accusations (accusing you of cheating)
  • Possessiveness
  • Physically harming you
  • Forcing or pressuring you into sex

Relationship abuse does not discriminate and can occur regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Therefore, it is important to educate yourself, your friends, and your family members about the dangers and warning signs of dating violence/abuse. A crucial part of this is knowing where to go for help. Below are some resources to reach out to if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship:


  • If you are in immediate danger contact 911


Relationship violence/abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault. No one deserves to be hurt, put down, and abused by the person they love. Remember, there is hope, and together, we can work to prevent teen dating violence!


References (2017). What Are the Different Types of Dating Abuse? Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Understanding Teen Dating Violence.

Retrieved from


What is a Healthy Relationship?

By Eleanor Beeslaar

What exactly makes a relationship healthy? First and foremost, healthy relationships are safe and free from abuse, neglect, and threats. They are built on a foundation of mutual respect, trust, support, openness, and honesty, and they are comprised of healthy communication, positive conflict resolution, healthy boundaries, and consent (, 2017).

People in healthy relationships respect one another’s beliefs, values, and opinions, even when they do not agree with one another. They engage in compromise to ensure that both partners feel heard, valued, and appreciated, and they promote independence by respecting privacy and supporting each other’s dreams and passions (, 2017).

Finally, healthy relationships are happy! People in healthy, happy relationships look forward to spending time together, prioritize one another, and enjoy learning more about each other. Most importantly, they are willing to put in the work necessary for building and maintaining their relationship.

Everyone deserves to experience the joy and love of a healthy relationship. Stay tuned for more information and useful strategies to help you build healthy, happy, and safe relationships!

References (2017). Healthy Relationships. Retrieved from

Healthy Relationships for Teens: Series Introduction

By Eleanor Beeslaar

Learning about healthy relationships is important at every stage of life; however, it is especially critical for teens to learn about the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Through early romantic relationships, teens learn behaviors and attitudes surrounding communication, conflict management, emotional regulation, and many other important life skills (Futris, Sutton, & Richardson, 2013). These relationships provide an opportunity for growth and learning, and with the proper knowledge and skills, teens can develop strategies to form safe, happy, and healthy relationships both now and in the future. The relationships skills teens develop are not only essential to developing and maintaining healthy dating relationships, but they also lead to successful relationships with friends, family members, peers, teachers, co-workers, and employers (Office of Adolescent Health, 2016).

On the other hand, without proper relationship education, teens are at risk for experiencing teen dating violence, which can lead to adverse effects on their health, development, and overall well-being (CDC, 2018). Teen dating violence is more prevalent than some may expect. According to the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, almost 12% of high school females reported physical violence and nearly 16% reported sexual violence from a dating partner in the past year. Additionally, over 7% of high school males reported physical violence and about 5% reported sexual violence from a dating partner (CDC, 2018).

Luckily, families and communities can help prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy dating relationships during adolescence through relationship education and a willingness to communicate openly with teens! In honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, we will be providing important information and strategies to help teens develop lifelong skills to build happy, healthy, and safe relationships. The information we will be providing is a great resource for teens to use directly and for adults to use to talk to teens in their lives about healthy relationships!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018, June 11). Teen Dating Violence. Retrieved from

Futris, T. D., Sutton, T. E., & Richardson, E. W. (2013). An evaluation of the Relationship Smarts Plus Program on adolescents in Georgia. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 1-15.

Office of Adolescent Health [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] (2016, September, 20). Healthy Dating Relationships in Adolescence. Retrieved from