Dear Olivia

Dear Olivia,

I know you are only 8 years old but it is time to have a talk about Valentine's Day. Even at the ripe age of 8, we have already sold you a bill of goods about February 14th. We have wrapped this day up into a giant package of love, love, and love.

It is my hope that your generation will get the day right. The focus of the day being about healthy caring relationships, especially the relationship you have with yourself. Your worth is not based on the size of a box of candy or the number of flowers in a bouquet. Your worth is not tied to a romantic relationship.

Remember this, love is beautiful and wonderful and it can also be confusing, frustrating, and disappointing but it is never abusive and violent. Love is about give and take, not power and control. It is about mutual sacrifice and compromise, not fear and hurt. It is a balance of both individual's needs, wants, and wishes.

Know that a healthy relationship allows you to be you, not some made up version where you exist to please someone else. And you, Olivia, are remarkable! You are smart, funny, caring, strong, determined, and just right.

Happy Valentine's Day, Olivia! May your day be filled with fun, your heart filled with joy, and your spirit filled with knowing that you are enough.

Aunt Beth

Why am I having this conversation with Olivia at age 8? Did you know that teen dating violence behaviors typically begin between the ages of 12 and 18 (2008, National Council on Crime and Delinquency)? And that 1 in 3 adolescents in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner a figure that exceeds rates of all other types of youth violence (2000 American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center)?

It is never too early to have a conversation with our children about healthy relationships, body autonomy, and love. Boys and girls of all ages need to be armed with correct information and given the direct nod to talk about these critical topics. It is estimated that only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about it (2005 Liz Claiborne research). And nearly even more scary than that, 81% of parents believe that teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don't know if it is an issue (2004 Family Violence Prevention Fund).

The Olivia's in our lives need to know that talking about violence is ok. They also need to know that they are worthy of love and respect - from everyone. We need to send these messages with great frequency and clarity. We are responsible for raising a generation where love doesn't equal fear.

HAVEN offers age-appropriate Prevention Education programs for children and teens that cover many topics including, personal safety, gender respect and healthy relationship skills. Click here to request a speaker or to learn more.