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Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Our Annual Tradition

By: Sara Tienda, Community Based Services Manager

February was Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month, and to empower our community, on February 10th we hosted our 9th annual “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” Conference at Early College High School in Costa Mesa with our Newport Mesa and Minnie Street Family Resource Centers. Each year the conference focuses on educating teenagers and their families on teen dating violence and what a healthy relationship should look like through various workshops and activities.

“It is important to understand that every relationship that your child has and the relationship that you have with your child deeply impacts how they will relate to others throughout their life,” said Human Options CEO Maricela Rios-Faust as she opened the conference.

The central theme of this year’s conference revolved around consent, establishing healthy boundaries and the importance of initiating conversations about it, from teens in relationships to parents and their children. The keynote speaker Nicole Balbuena, MSW, PPSC, ASW emphasized that normalizing these discussions about all aspects of relationships empowers teenagers to recognize signs of relationship violence and seek help without fear of being judged.

While parents may view their teenager’s early romantic endeavors as infatuation or “puppy love”, their experiences in these relationships deeply impact their future ones. Making sure teens have an understanding of healthy relationships and respect for personal boundaries fosters positive relationship dynamics throughout their life.

One of the most important pieces of advice shared during the conference was that waiting until your teen is in a relationship to discuss consent and healthy relationships can be ill advised. Instead, engage them in open dialogue, be attentive listeners, and create a safe environment where they feel comfortable discussing any concerns. Encourage meeting their partners and ensure they know they can confide in you if needed. Few teens feel they have a trusted adult they can talk to. Parents should be the first.

In situations where extra support is needed, Human Options provides a 24/7 hotline staffed by compassionate advocates ready to offer support, guidance, and validation to victims and survivors. Additionally, to prevent abusive relationships from happening, join on our Teen Ambassador Program. This free series includes two-hour workshops over several weeks where teens learn about teen dating violence, unhealthy and healthy relationships through interactive activities. Community service hours are earned.

For further assistance, reach out to our hotline at 877-854-3594 or visit humanoptions.org. Together, let’s promote #HealthyLove and ending teen dating violence.


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