It’s seventh grade. It’s awkward. “Going out” means holding hands when no one is looking. But your hands are always sweaty. So sweaty.

Do you feel it? That twitterpated feeling you felt when you developed your first crush?

As an educator for Power Up, Speak Out!, I travel around the state teaching educators and youth about healthy relationship skills. We want kids to know that whether they are with their best friend or biggest crush, they should be able to be themselves, treat others well, choose to say no, and have fun.

Now, the crush part gets a little tricky. I know none of us want to think that our seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh or twelfth graders are interested in anything other than legos and hop scotch, but it turns out, teenagers are likely to date or think about dating.

And so we need to talk about it. One in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. First crushes should be fun and safe. We need your help to open a dialogue about relationships and let the teens in your life know they deserve healthy relationships.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Bummer right? Aren’t we supposed to be celebrating Valentine’s Day? Well, you can do both. Be curious about the relationships youth are in. Ask a kid you are close to what they think about dating or friendship. Ask if they feel like they get to be themselves in their relationships, if they are treated well, if they are able to say no and if they have fun. Let them know that you are a safe, nonjudgmental adult they can talk to.

When we ask teens what the biggest problem they face at school is they almost always say: drama. Relationships should be more fun than drama. A dating partner shouldn’t be that different from a friend.

So talk about it. Think about it. Share your experiences. Help us work toward a future free from violence.




If you or someone you know is experiencing teen dating violence, call our helpline at (406) 425-2222. More information can be found on our website: or