emergency hotline

Unhealthy Relationships

Understand the Challenge
Understand the Challenge
Aiming for healthy relationships.

Safe dating can be described as the practice of healthy, interdependent relationships between individuals. Many relationships, however, are unhealthy and can lead to real emotional and physical consequences for those individuals in the relationship and others around them. How do we differentiate between what is “safe” and “unhealthy” when it comes to dating? Unhealthy relationships are defined as relationships in which physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence take place. Many unhealthy relationships can be avoided by helping youth to develop skills to create healthy relationships and by teaching them to recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships. If we witness signs of an unhealthy relationship – what can we do?

  • Nearly half of teen girls who have been in a relationship say they have been victims of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse by their boyfriends.

    - Tween/Teen Dating Relationships Survey, 2008
  • During one year, 9.4% of students had been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend (i.e., dating violence).

    - CDC Surveillance System: 2011 National Overview
  • Victims of dating abuse are not only at increased risk for injury, they are also more likely to engage in binge drinking, suicide attempts, etc.

    - CDC, 2006
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average.

    - Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice and Statistics, 2006
  • 8% of students had ever been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to.

    - CDC Surveillance System: 2011 National Overview
Signs of Unhealthy Relationships

Safe dating can be described as the practice of healthy, interdependent relationships between individuals. Many relationships, however, are not safe and can lead to real emotional and physical consequences for those individuals in the relationship and those around them. But how do we differentiate between what is “safe” and “unsafe” when it comes to dating? And if we see signs of unsafe dating, what can we do?

  • Drop in academic performance
  • Bite marks, bruises, scratches, or burn marks
  • Truancy
  • Quick and intense involvement in a relationship
  • Changes in mood; either depression or anxiety
  • Acting secretive or acting out
  • Sexually uninhibited or hyper-sexual behavior
  • Apologizing or justifying partner’s behavior, especially his/her temper
  • Rejection or isolation from friends or family
  • Not attending school activities
  • Discontinuing involvement with extra-curricular activities
  • Striving for perfection
  • Preoccupation with appearance
  • Looking uncomfortable or fearful around partner
  • Deferring to partner in mixed company
  • Wanting to control someone else’s decisions
  • Eating disorders or sudden weight loss
  • Personal possessions damaged, missing, or destroyed
  • A pattern of violent relationships
  • School suspension for fighting
  • Involvement with the police
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Diary entries or social media posts revealing reckless behavior
  • Individuals who are controlling of their partners are more likely to be physically aggressive
Parent Guide
Ask your kids about the amplif(i) presentations they saw at school.

What choices did the speaker make that they can or cannot relate to, what did they learn?

Teach your kid boundaries.

Educate your kid on how to be assertive and to communicate their desires and limits clearly and early on in a relationship.

Remind your kid to consider others.

Educate your son or daughter to never assume that any manner of dress or non-verbal behavior means a person feels the same way you do.

Check for respect.

Teach your kid to pay attention if their date gets too close, touches them in a way they don't like, or ignores their feelings and limits. Your kid should never feel their desires are disregarded in a relationship. All parties should respect the others wishes, and "No" always means "No.”

Give insight on impairment.

Frequently remind your kid to avoid using alcohol or other drugs that may dull their judgments so that they can maintain awareness about their situation at all times.

Teach your kid to trust their instincts.

If  your son or daughter is in a situation in which they feel pressured, uncomfortable, or unsafe - it probably is. Help them learn how to identify how they feel and go with their gut feelings.

Assist your kid with skill development.

Help your kid develop skills that will aid them in paying attention to what is happening around them. It will help reduce their chances of becoming isolated or being put in a vulnerable situation. Tell your kid to never accept drinks (even water!) from strangers or leave their drink unattended.

Teach your kid self-reliance.

Have your kid provide their own transportation when going out (don’t rely on the person your kid will be meeting) and help them to develop independence.

Know where your kid is.

Make sure you know where your kid is and when he/she will be back. Have them keep their cell phone on at all times so that there are open channels of communication available that allow for you to easily get in contact with them if need be.

Know who your kid is with.

Get as much information about the person they are meeting as possible (phone number that is verified, name, etc.). Ensure that your kid is not going out with a person who they do not know, or who may be a stranger.

Consider group dating.

Also, set rules around meeting in public places or requiring the date to come to your house to meet the parents until your family has gotten to know them well enough.

Urge your kid to stay away from private or secluded places.

Have them agree to never leave an event with someone they just met. Remind them to make sure they always leave with friends and never leave friends behind.

Engage your kid in a dialogue.

If you have concerns about their partner, talk about it. Forbidding your kid to date someone is likely to shut down communication, which may exacerbate an unhealthy situation in the future.

Establish a “no consequence” procedure.

If your kid calls you while under the influence, don't talk consequences. You can always address the concerns about substance use in relationships once they are safe.

Recommend a professional.

Offer your kid the opportunity to speak to a professional about the challenges in their relationship. Kids are sometimes more able to tolerate input from an objective third party than from a parent or friend.

If your kid is concerned about leaving a relationship that he or she believes is unsafe, help them develop a plan ahead of time.

The plan should take into consideration: the situation in which they will end the relationship, a person they will have with them when they break up with their partner, a code word to share with a trusted person that will alert them of their need for help and a plan for the type of help they require, the language they will use to end the relationship,  and what form of communication they will use to end the relationship (phone, email, text).

Give advice for post break-up situations.

Advise your kid to also think about what help they will solicit from school support personnel subsequent to the break-up to ensure their safety away from home, how to block contact with their partner after the break-up, how they will ensure they are not alone following the break-up as they return to situations where they might be in contact with their former partner, and in some instances, when the police should be contacted to execute an order of protection.


Emergency Resources

notMYkid is not a counseling or treatment agency. We are here to offer support, information and options. Destructive youth behaviors do not discriminate and have impacted many lives. A number of resources are available, and will assist you in finding the help necessary to make informed and empowered choices.

Teen Lifeline

602-248-TEEN (8336)
or 1-800-248-TEEN (8336)

National Teen Helplines


Community Information and Referral Services

(800-352-3792 within
area codes 520 and 928)

Maricopa 24-Hour Crisis Hotline


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