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Talking to teens about dating doesn't have to be awkward

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ATLANTA -

It's an uncomfortable moment for any parent. It's the moment you realize your teen is dating. One expert says talking to your teen about healthy relationships is important, but it doesn't have to be awkward.

Dr. Melissa Kottke, the Director of Emory University's Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health, says talking to your teens about dating doesn't have to be scary.

"What do we all want? We want our teens to be happy and we want our teens to be safe. So there's a good opportunity to help young people understand and build healthy dating relationships that can actually help us accomplish both," said Kottke.

She says conversations should start well before the teen years. Studies show that kids are beginning to date at younger ages, and dating just means engaging in relationships, not necessarily having sexual relations.

"We want to teach kids what they should be expecting in relationships with other people. And what they should be delivering in their relationships to other people at a very, very, very young age," Kottke said.

Dr. Kottke says to talk to your teen about what a healthy relationship looks like.

"Is there acceptance in that relationship of who you are? Do you have good communication skills? Are you able to disagree respectfully and safely? Those things are all really important components of healthy relationships," said Kottke.

Kottke says talking is great, but parents should model that good relationship behavior. Kottke also suggests using the media that bombards your teen to your advantage. When watching TV with your teen, use that moment to pick their brain about relationships.

"What a great opportunity to say hey, what did you think about that? Do you think that those two just showed each other respect? Do you think that that was demonstrating caring or honesty? How might you do that differently? What would you do if that happened in your relationship," explained Kottke.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, so there's no time like the present to start this conversation. For more information on teen violence prevention, click here!

Resources for teens and parents: http://startstrongatl.org/what/ and http://ww.loveisrespect.org

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