With all of the hearts and flowers and celebrations of romance in the air, parents of daughters should know that February is teen dating violence awareness and prevention month. The two work together to create a perfect opening for crucial conversations for moms and/or dads to have with their girls.

Even before our girls are old enough to think about boys, we need to be purposefully telling them who they are, and helping them to understand their value, to your family, and in the world. Confident girls are not as likely to be preyed upon by bullies, or to fall victim to guys with unsavory intentions or unhealthy relationships later. That’s probably a conversation that should be ongoing through all of the weeks of all of the years.

But it can happen simply. Make it a point to tell her all of the things that you see in her that are awesome. There’s lots of talk about body image out there these days, but there’s so much more. Is she friendly? Does she instinctively care for her siblings or pets? Does she work hard on school projects? Does she show creativity? Does her smile light up the room? Does she show strength of character in tough situations? Tell her that!

Write her notes in dry erase marker on her mirror, put it on a paper plate and hang it on her door knob.

We have some cute, inexpensive place card holders that you could use sometimes for the whole family. Give everyone a sticky note or recipe card, one for each member of the household. Have them write the person’s name, and then just a word or phrase saying something specific that they admire or appreciate about that person.  Collect them, and then stick them in the holders at each person’s place at the table, and let everyone read theirs together.

You might find some information and ideas that would be helpful in building your sweet girl’s confidence at this website: http://www.amightygirl.com/parenting.

As your daughters grow older, then it will be time to talk specifically about dating. On the positive side, help them come up with personal goals for what they want in a healthy dating relationship, and talk about the warning signs that a person or the way a relationship is working is negative, or even dangerous.

When I was in high school, my parents encouraged me to do lots of fun activities in a group, instead of just as a couple. That was also less social stress, and lots more fun.

In today’s world, where people often meet through social media sites or at large events, it’s really important for girls to be aware of safety issues, and have a plan in place. Include a friend the first few times, never walk away from your drink…those are important safeguards to have in place. We’re not saying that every date will turn into an episode from Criminal Minds, but that show has had a long run for more reasons than Shemar Moore.

We love all of the girls who work for us like they are family, so one of the things we give them every year is some Bling Sting, a pepper spray we sell that’s in a cute container for your purse.

Our family still laughs about the time I was heading out alone for a show, and Mom and Dad were standing on the driveway, giving me all of those last minute instructions that parents can’t help but give, and Mom said, “Do you have your pepper spray?”

I may or may not have rolled my eyes as I said, “Yes, Mom, I have the pepper spray.”

She said, “Amber, I’ll bet you’ve never even learned how to work it.”

Know-it-all that I sometimes am, I whipped it out, and sprayed it…right into the Tulsa breeze, where it immediately drifted right back into my face.

I’m here to tell you, the stuff works.

As I drove away, I was still crying from the spray. Mom and Dad were on the driveway, crying from laughter.

A solid sense of their value as individuals, and a healthy view of what positive dating relationships should look like as they grow through each stage in life is one of the most important things we can give our kids – both sons and daughters – to set them up for a positive future.

For ideas about how to make use of this month, and activities and resources that could assist you, check out this website: http://www.breakthecycle.org/blog/february-teen-dating-violence-awareness-and-prevention-month

If it’s your first time to attempt a conversation about these things, we would love to hear how it goes. We’re cheering for you!

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