• Aggressive Challenge

    A threatening and hostile challenge that may result in physical harm.

  • Aggressive Communication

    Stating your thoughts, feelings, and ideas without regard for others; communicating in a way that is forceful and confrontational.

  • Assertive Challenge

    A clear, direct, and obvious challenge.

  • Assertive Communication

    Standing up for yourself by stating your thoughts, feelings, and opinions in a way that is clear yet considerate of the feelings of others.

  • Balance of Power

    When power is shared equally by people in a relationship.

  • Boundaries

    The defined limits between what is and is not acceptable; boundaries can be physical and emotional.

  • Cyber-Safety

    Safe and responsible use of the internet and communication technology.

  • Dating Violence

    Controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship, including verbal, physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse.

  • Emotional abuse

    Harming someone mentally and emotionally through insults, put-downs, guilt, and manipulation; using mind games, and/or making someone feel bad about themselves.

  • Flirting

    Playful behavior that is intended to get the attention of another person for fun and amusement.

  • Grooming

    To prepare or train; drawing a victim into a secret relationship for the purpose of abusing them.

  • Healthy Relationship

    A relationship with a balance of power where healthy boundaries are protected. The relationship is positive rational, productive, and supportive.

  • Passive – Aggressive Communication

    Communication that appears to be passive, however the subtle and indirect communication is meant to control others.

  • Passive Challenge

    A subtle challenge that is often not resisted.

  • Passive Communication

    Accepting what others are saying and doing while avoiding stating your own thoughts, feelings, or opinions.

  • Safety P.L.A.N.

    A predetermined plan to minimize risk and maintain safety when away from home; P.L.A.N. stands for:

    • P-asking Permission
    • L-to go to a Location
    • A-to do a specific Activity
    • N-providing Names and Numbers for adults or peers you’ll be with
  • Self Esteem

    Confidence in one’s own worth; positive thoughts and feelings about oneself.

  • Sexting

    Sending sexually explicit text message and/or photos.

  • Sexual Abuse

    Unwanted sexual activity when one person threatens, intimidates, and pressures another person; because a person under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to having sex, sex between an adult and a minor is considered sexual abuse.

  • Sexual Harassment

    Any unwanted physical or verbal contact that is sexual in nature intended to take control and power away from another person.

  • Unhealthy Relationship

    A relationship with an imbalance of power that results in one person being controlled and manipulated by the other person; boundaries are not respected resulting in a destructive and negative relationship.

Letter to Parents



Communication Skills & Styles

Everyone has different communications styles. Communication can be aggressive, assertive, passive-aggressive, or passive. Review definitions for these communications styles in the glossary, and use the activities below to help your teen discover their personal communication style. Discuss how they can develop an assertive communication style to express their needs clearly while showing respect for themselves and others.

When discussing communication skills and styles with your teen, remember that it is important to always keep the lines of communication open. Helping your teen feel comfortable coming to you to talk about important and sometimes difficult issues and to tell you their about their feelings is essential to ensuring his or her safety. Take time to discuss your teen’s personal rights, and help them to understand the following points:

  • Your teen’s body belongs to them.
  • Your teen has the right to say no when it comes to their body.
  • Past permission or activities do not give permission for or obligate your teen to future activities.
  • It is not okay for any adult to engage in an inappropriate relationship with a teenager.
  • Your teen deserves to always be treated with respect.
  • It’s always okay to seek help.

It is important for parents to:

  • Build a trusting relationship with your teen through open communication.
  • Spend time together and be a part of your teenager’s life.
  • Be willing to listen. This can start by asking your teenager for input when making family decisions, from something as simple as what to have for dinner or watch on TV to where the family should go on vacation.
  • Be a role model by talking with your teen about personal safety, rights, and responsibilities.
  • Timing is everything. Look for those “teachable moments” when you can naturally connect what is happening at that moment with your teenager his or her life. You may be watching a movie or see something at the mall that can initiate a conversation about personal safety.
  • Stay calm when your teenager divulges sensitive information. Getting upset and angry will close the lines of communication.
  • Focus on the positive. During conversations, point out your teenager’s strengths and build on those to expand his or her repertoire of personal safety skills.


Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships

When talking with your teen about the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, remember to always include the concept that relationships should be about equality not control. When there is an imbalance of power in a relationship, it is unhealthy. Unhealthy relationships can lead to your teen being in an unsafe situation. Reinforce the following concepts with your teen:

  • They always have the right to say no.
  • They can ask for help from friends, trusted adults, counselors, parents, or siblings.
  • Because poor self-esteem can make someone more vulnerable to an unhealthy relationship, encourage your teen to focus on positive rather than negative aspects of themselves.
  • Encourage your teen to stay involved with their friends to prevent being isolated by an unhealthy partner.
  • Stress to your teen the importance of listening to their inner guiding voice which helps them identify their thoughts, feelings, and needs. Help your teen use assertive communication to state what they want rather than just agreeing with their partner. Remind your teen to be respectful of other’s thoughts and ideas, too.
  • Remind your teen to confide their feelings to someone they trust.
  • If your teens see abuse, they should SPEAK UP. Be clear and direct about what they saw and why it is wrong. For example, “Tony, it’s not OK to insult Rachel. Today at lunch she was really upset because you announced to everyone that she was not very pretty or smart. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and what you did was really unkind.”
  • Make sure that your teen knows that they should not put themselves in harm’s way to help themselves or others. If your teen or their peer(s) need help in a dangerous situation, they should seek help from a trusted adult to help.
  • Encourage your teen to stand up for those who need help and not be a bystander. They should provide help or go get help if they can’t provide it themselves.
  • Explain to your teen that if they’re not sure where to go for help, A good place to start is with you or their school counselor are good places to start.


Sexual Harrassment

Harassment is unwanted and unwelcome behavior which provides aggressive pressure or intimidation.

  • Unwanted and unwelcome touching, grabbing, bumping into to someone or rubbing up against them
  • Jokes that are about sex
  • Making sexual remarks, “cat calls or wolf calls”, rude or insulting comments that are sexual in nature, or making suggestive gestures
  • Showing sexually explicit pictures
  • Unwelcomed discussions or bragging about sexual activities
  • Threatening or intimidating sexual comments
  • Spreading sexual rumors

Help your teen to make the connection that the harassment is unwanted and unwelcomed. It is upsetting to the victim. It can cause the victim to feel powerless.

Share these tips with your teen to help them if they are experiencing any form of harassment:

  • Speak up, be direct, and tell the person who is harassing you or someone else to stop. For example: “Stop making comments about my body!”
  • Challenge the person who is harassing you. Take control and move the focus from you to the harasser.
  • Be very clear. Let the harasser know that what he or she is doing is sexual harassment and that if it continues there will be serious consequences.
  • Make an unofficial complaint. If it doesn’t stop TELL someone. If the harassment happens at school, find a trusted adult to tell. This could be a trusted teacher, school counselor, dean, or school administrator. Tell your parents what is happening and that you have told someone at school about the harassment. If the harassment happens somewhere else, tell your parents or another trusted adult.
  • Make an official complaint. You can contact the resource officer or other law enforcement official and file a formal complaint.

REMEMBER: You have the right to speak up when someone is making you feel uncomfortable. If telling the harasser to stop is not enough, you need to tell someone. Keep telling trusted adults until you are heard helped!


Dating Violence

As your teenager gains more independence there are also increased dangers. Teenagers always think, “It will never happen to me!” However, when it comes to dating violence, the statistics unfortunately say otherwise. That is a startling statistic. Discuss with your teen the importance of looking for warning signs:

  • Isolating you from your friends and family
  • Constant checking on your whereabouts, controlling
  • Using insults and putdowns
  • Blaming you when he or she treats you badly
  • The relationship is too serious too fast
  • Explosive temper, history of fighting
  • Refuses to let you end the relationship

If you believe your teen is in an abusive dating relationship, visit for free 24/7 call, chat, and text hotline resources.


Sexual Abuse – Grooming

Sadly, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will become a victim of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday – but by learning the warning signs of unsafe behaviors, children, teens, and adults can stop abuse before it starts.

Grooming tactics are techniques an abuser uses to establish and maintain a relationship. It starts with the abuser finding a victim with a vulnerability. By exploiting that vulnerability the abuser strives to fill a need for the victim and establish a relationship. The abuser will often become a ‘lifesaver” filling a need for the victim’s family as well. By building trust with the family, the abuser will have more access to the victim. Next, the abuser works to isolate the victim. Control is maintained through secrecy and blame. Control can be also be gained through force, coercion, and fraud.

Teenagers naturally seek more independence. This is an important stage of development. However, seeking independence does not mean your teen is ready to be independent. Your teen will continue to benefit from having open lines of communication with you. Continue to talk you’re your teen about how to stand up to potential abusers. Abusers typically test the waters to see how a potential victim not with react. Therefore, it is essential that the victim resists and tells someone at the first signs of an inappropriate relationship. Discuss with your teen what to say or do if someone is attempting to initiate an inappropriate relationship.

Look for opportunities to discuss “What if?” questions and help your teen develop strategies and solutions.

  • What if an adult you know keeps offering to buy you things, such as an expensive jacket you have been wanting?
  • What if a coach keeps offering to work with you after practice? When is it okay to stay alone after practice and when is it crossing the line?
  • What if an adult or older teens threaten you to keep you from telling what has been happening? Who could you go to for help?

If your teen discloses information about abuse, stay calm. Reassure them that you are glad they told you and you will help them.

Reporting abuse is an essential step in helping victims and stopping the abuse. Every state has an abuse hotline that accepts reports 24 hours per day. Every state has an abuse hotline that accepts reports 24 hours per day; call 1-800-4-A-CHILD to be connected with your local reporting hotline. It is your responsibility to report suspected abuse, it is the responsibility of the investigator to investigate to abuse.

Safe and Unsafe Secrets

Because grooming tactics always involve secrets, it is important that your teen understand the difference between a safe secret and an unsafe secret. Talk with your teen about this difference.

  • A Safe Secret is one that will eventually be told and will make everyone smile-like a surprise party or the gender of a baby-to-be.
  • An Unsafe Secret is one that makes you feel confused, threatened, unsafe, or scared and is one that you are told not to tell.
  • Help your teen understand that it is never safe to keep an Unsafe Secret, no matter who asks or tells them to keep a secret.
  • Keep the lines of communication open with your teen.
  • Make sure your teen knows that it’s okay to come to you with any information.
  • Make sure your teen knows that they should never keep a secret from you.

When your teen is faced with being asked or told to keep a secret:

  • Help your teen to process how the secret makes them feel. If it makes them feel confused, threatened, unsafe, or scared, they must tell a trusted adult.

When your teen discloses an Unsafe Secret to you:

  • Believe what they are saying
  • Validate their feelings

Remember that teens that feel like they can talk to their parents or caregivers about anything are much less susceptible to being victimized by a sexual predator.


Cyber Safety

Technology changes daily and new sites and apps are launched all the time, so it is vital that parents consistently monitor teens’ use of the computer, tablet, smartphone, etc. While it’s important to respect your teen’s privacy, you have a responsibility as the owner and account holder of those devices to monitor the uses and activity of them. Teens should understand that it is a privilege to use these devices, and that irresponsible or unsafe use can put themselves and others at risk.

Good Cyber Citizenship is important whenever your teen is using a digital device.

  • What are the rules for the use of Internet devices in your home?
  • What are your safety settings on your teen’s digital devices? At this age, teens often want to explore information about sex, substances, and other taboo topics without the scrutiny of parents. It’s important for your teen to seek out factual information safely.
  • What should your teen do if they find an inappropriate website or see an image that is upsetting?
  • Do you know who is photographing your teen and where those photos are being posted?
  • Does your teen understand that once something is posted on the Internet, texted, tweeted, etc. it is permanent…even if it is deleted? Sending or posting unkind or unsafe messages or images can have major consequences.
  • Does your teen know not to share or post any personal information about themselves – address, email address, phone number – online?
  • Does your teen ask permission before posting photos to social media? You should have passwords to your teen’s social media accounts. Some teens create two accounts – one for private use with their friends, and one more public facing account. Be sure you know what your teen is doing online.
  • Does your teen understand that posting any personal information about others is inappropriate?
  • Does your teen understand that communicating with someone they meet online is very dangerous because they never know with whom they are actually communicating?
  • Does your teen understand that chat rooms are dangerous?
  • Does your child understand that they should never send unkind messages online or using digital devices, and cyber bullying can have serious consequences?


Safety P.L.A.N.

As your teen gains independence, it’s important for them to P.L.A.N. for safety. P.L.A.N. stands for Permission, Location, Activity, Names and Numbers – before your teen goes somewhere, they need to get Permission from a trusted adult to go to a specific Location and do a certain Activity, as well as provide the Names and phone Numbers for the adults or peers they’ll be with.

Help your teen complete a Safety P.L.A.N. for an everyday situation such as going to the movies with a friend, a sleepover, or going to the mall.

  • Reinforce the importance of each step of the Safety P.L.A.N.
  • Stress why each step helps to keep them safe
  • Stress that no step should ever be skipped

Help your teen to understand that sometimes situations arise that put them in the position where they might be tempted to change a step in their Safety P.L.A.N.

  • Stress the importance of sticking with their safety P.L.A.N. or asking permission for a new P.L.A.N.

Model the appropriate way to change their Safety P.L.A.N. by repeating the process beginning with getting Permission.

Discuss with your teen that the use of the Safety P.L.A.N. in not to suggest that you are monitoring their every move or that you do not trust them. It is important for your teen to build their independence and to move through the world making safe choices and decisions. However, as their parent you need to know where they are, whom they are with, and what they are doing. It is for their safety.

Stress to your teen the importance of someone knowing where they are and who they are with if they make a change in the Safety P.L.A.N. for an activity that you have approved. For example: What if your teen needs to change their P.L.A.N., but they aren’t able to get ahold of you to ask Permission and then their phone dies? You need to be able to use the Names and Numbers they have provided you with to get in touch and understand where your teen is.