First dance. First date. First crush. First kiss.
Exploring romantic relationships (or just daydreaming about them) is part of growing up.
Here at the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, we know that when young people feel comfortable communicating with a partner and negotiating things like condom use, they may be less likely to get pregnant or get someone pregnant.
We also know that relationships can be an emotional rollercoaster ride for any youth. The ride can be even bumpier for young people who haven’t had healthy relationship role models at home or in the community. Even teens with healthy role models may not have the life experience to recognize controlling or abusive behavior or to feel confident about the option for relationships to not involve sexual relations.
With 57 percent of teens saying they know of a peer who has been physically, sexually or verbally abusive to their dating partner, having the skills necessary to engage in healthy relationships is more important than ever for young people. That’s why we’re working with our grantee partners every day to “PREP Teens for Healthy Relationships.”
Through the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), we fund over 100 programs in states and Tribal communities across the country that teach young people more than just how to avoid pregnancy. They teach youth the skills needed to build and navigate healthy relationships. When youth learn effective ways to communicate, set boundaries and resolve conflict, they are less likely to be engaged in abusive relationships and behavior that result in adolescent pregnancy.
Here are three ways FYSB and our grantees are preparing teens for healthy relationships:
In those extreme cases, typical interventions – teaching young people to communicate and negotiate their sexual relationships – are not enough. To effectively address abuse in relationships among youth, FYSB’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program partnered with our Family Violence Prevention and Services Program to develop the Toolkit to Incorporate Adolescent Relationship Abuse Prevention into Existing Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Programming. The toolkit walks educators through ways to try to prevent dating abuse when possible, as well as provide strategies for serving young people who are experiencing abuse.
We certainly can’t take all the mystery and uncertainty out of dating, romance and sexuality for our nation’s teens. But we can aim to keep them safer, healthier and more prepared for the challenges of adulthood.
If you are a parent , educator or youth service worker, we encourage you to take some time this May and throughout the year to explore the role of healthy relationships and unhealthy ones in pregnancy prevention. Together, we can PREP Teens for the Future.