February is Teen Dating Violence awareness month.  As I prepare to give a speech about healthy relationships to a group of high school students, my daughter is at the forefront of my mind.  I am blessed that she is not in an abusive situation.  However, with one in three teens reporting they have been in an unhealthy relationship and one in ten admitting to being physically abused, I realize this behavior is all too common.  With her leaving for college next year, how can I best prepare her?

My mind immediately goes to increasing her awareness of what is “ok” and what is “not ok”.  Helping her label certain behaviors and words as “abusive” can assist her in seeing the difference between love and manipulation, if she is to ever come across it.  I also want her to know whats healthy so she knows a good thing when she has it.  I don’t just want her to know it intellectually, I want her to feel it in her gut and trust it.  

But sometimes knowing you are in a bad spot doesn’t always give you the strength to break it off and risk the consequences of ending a relationship.  How can I instill in her a sense of self esteem that screams “I am worth it, I deserve love?”  If she has the self confidence in her abilities to deal with life and the skills needed to become a functional adult, she might feel less dependent on another person.  I need to teach her to be competent and independent.  By being secure with herself, she may choose to stay with someone because she wants to not because she needs too. 

But how do I help her become this strong woman I know she can be? If I model self respect will she internalize the messages I try to tell her daily?  Will she then leave a relationship that she is not supported and encouraged because her soul knows she deserves more? 

The realization that I can teach, model, and love her is evident, but it is ultimately her choice whether she chooses to stay in an abusive relationship or get out of it.  Either way, she is not a victim.  She chooses the thoughts she wants to hold on to, her behaviors, and her response to life events.  So ,maybe the best I can do for her is to help her see her power in creating her world. To teach her all I can from my life experiences and those that have dealt with these cases.

 Because in the end, we all have to make our own choices. So to her, I remark:

You are the sum of your choices.  Choose wisely my beautiful daughter!  I love you.