Awareness events target unhealthy relationships

by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

2/4/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Parents know how to talk to their children about school subjects, but how do they talk about teen dating violence?

Dating and violence are not math and science; there isn't just one answer, said Myles Hayes, the Maxwell Youth Center program director. Parents, teachers and other adults need to educate teens on personal and social awareness as well.

The Maxwell and Gunter Youth Centers, the Family Advocacy program, the Airman and Family Readiness Center and the 42nd Air Base Wing have organized events throughout February to promote Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

"We want to prevent any form of unhealthy relationships," said April Jones, Family Advocacy outreach manager.

Some youth learn about abuse at home and see abuse as normal.

"If there is domestic violence in the home, teens will model that behavior," Ms. Jones said. They are more likely to be in abusive relationships as adults.

February's events aim to be proactive and reach out to teens to break the cycle. Teens are still learning how to react in social situations.

"It is imperative that parents, counselors and adults promote prevention awareness (and) healthy relationships," Ms. Jones said.

The youth centers are reaching out to teens through Teen Unity Basketball Nights. Staff members use breaks between games to talk to children about important issues. The topic Feb. 18 will be dating violence and include skits, prizes and finger foods. Forums like these give teens an opportunity to talk to adults and other teens, and often they learn from each other, said Teri Anderson, programs director at the Gunter Youth Center. Youth learn that they are not the only ones facing these issues.

"If we can reach one child, we've succeeded," Ms. Anderson said.

A lunch and learn program on Feb. 24 will address the other side of the coin, how parents can talk to their children about relationships.

The Montgomery Police Department and the Airman and Family Readiness Center will discuss maintaining healthy relationships online and offline.

"We have to keep (parents) up to date with what is going on," said Marie Hixon, personal and work life consultant at the Airman and Family Readiness Center. "We can teach them how to ask their children and get answers."

Chatting with children, not lecturing them, can open doors to conversation.

"Ronald Reagan said, 'All great change in America begins at the dinner table,'" said Sandi Killough, wife of 42nd Air Base Wing Commander Col. Brian Killough and mother of two. "Our children are so important, and we want them to know that."

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

The following is planned for February in support of the themed month:

Displays -- Pick up information packets and brochures around base this month, including the Maxwell and Gunter Youth Centers, Maxwell clinic and the Airman and Family Readiness Center. Parent Advisory Council meetings April Jones from the Family
Advocacy Program will discuss teen online dating awareness during the Parents Advisory Board meetings 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Maxwell Youth Center and 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Gunter Youth Center.

Wizards -- Teens can meet the Harlem Wizards and learn about online dating dangers from the Montgomery Police Department from 4-5 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Maxwell Youth Center.

Skits and prizes -- Teens are invited to participate in skits and earn prizes during a special presentation at the Teen Unity Basketball Night Feb. 18 at the Maxwell Youth Center. Games begin at 7 p.m. Skits and prizes will begin around 8 p.m. Free teen-friendly finger foods will be available.

Brown bag lunch and learn -- The presentation, "On and offline healthy relationships for youth: what parents should know," is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Airman and Family Readiness Center. Marie Hixon from AFRC will discuss healthy offline relationships. Representatives from the Montgomery Police Department's Outreach Crime Prevention Division/Unit will cover cyber safety. Drinks and dessert will be provided, and participants are encouraged to bring their own lunch. A door
prize will be available.