By Justin Seward
National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month happens every February and Prairie Rose Public Schools, Redcliff Youth Centre have partnered with the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society to provide teens with the resources they need to know about signs in a relationship.
“We’ve partnered with a lot of different activities and organized events through Parkside School, Eagle Butte and Margaret Wooding,” said Heather Schneider, PRPS wellness coordinator.
“This year, specifically, just due to the COVID restrictions, we’ve decided to take it to a Zoom level—which allowed for our students here to really get more information about the support and the signs of what they need to look for—especially just now in the world that we are living in.”
Besides the Zoom education with MHWSS, students are provided with posters of the information that can be obtained at the Women’s Shelter, as well as activities such as making orange bracelets on Feb. 10 this year and bookmarks are handed out with information.
“They can also 100 per cent if they have any questions or they are scared to ask, they can always come to the teacher, the FSLW (Family Support and Liaison Worker) in the school, myself and we can always get them the information that they need,” said Schneider.
Redcliff Youth Centre has been participating in teen dating awareness for five years.
“Just any tips or resources they have can have available to them for free and that they can learn in a group setting is one thing that we find super beneficial,” said Janae Ulrich, RYC executive director.
“We create a whole activity around the topic of teen dating and violence awareness and a lot of youth might not know what some red flags are in unhealthy relationships. Unfortunately, we see a lot of youth in general, the relationships that they typically see in their family systems can already be very unhealthy. So, a lot of youth have the perception of that’s normal—it’s normal to have somebody yell at you or it’s normal to have somebody want to keep tabs on you. So, if youth are able to recognize them, it sets them up for success and it encourages them to model healthy relationships but be able to recognize when behaviours are not appropriate or not acceptable and they’re worthy having people in their lives that are.”
RYC hosts a red flags program and is where youth a broken up into groups to discuss topics such as green flag—which discusses healthy relationship aspects— yellow flag with warning signs in relationships and red flags talk about things not to do.
Peggy Revell, MHWSS community awareness and education coordinator, said at this stage, they’re still learning about what a relationships is.
“If there in a situation of dating violence, this may be the first time they’ve heard ‘This is wrong.’ ‘This isn’t normal.’ ‘This isn’t safe.’ and so even hearing that message can be enough for them to get that help earlier on hopefully before it escalates to something more dangerous and unsafe,” said Revell.
Revell thinks the challenge is having those conversations especially with kids and parents.
“The conversations are avoided often,” she said.
“I think that’s really important because parents need to be having those conversations as well.”
MHWSS has connected with schools in the region to run programming.
“Orange is the official colour of the month,” said Revell, when asked about the orange bracelet activity.
“So doing something orange to keep the kids occupied. What I find when we do an activity like that, as you’re doing it, that (is) when you have the conversation.”
Teens are encouraged to contact the MHWSS hotline at 403-529-1091 or 1-800-661-7949 for more information.