The teen years are those in which teenagers learn how to make decisions about relationships with friends, family and romantic partners. What teens learn now will affect them throughout their lives.
Teens can't navigate these choppy waters alone. They need the help of adults to guide them into healthy, respectful relationships. Alcohol, drug, and sexual risk-taking behaviors are higher among those teenagers involved in abusive relationships.
One in every eleven teens report being the victim of physical dating violence. Teen dating violence has a direct correlation between health and well-being.
Watching your teen participate in any relationship - good or bad - can be challenging for even the best parents. But watching your teenager experience dating violence is terrifying and frustrating. Remember that dating abuse occurs in same-sex and opposite-sex couples and that girls can also abuse boys.
Most teens will be hesitant to discuss any type of relationship abuse with their parent and, instead, idolize their partner while blaming themselves. Don't underestimate how intense a relationship may be for a teenager just because they're young.
Dating abuse is a serious problem among today's youth. Those who have experienced dating violence may grow to engage in violent or abusive relationships as adults. Early prevention and intervention can be crucial.
Learn the Warning Signs Of Abuse:
Your first line of defense in teen dating abuse is to learn the warning signs of an abusive relationship. More obvious ones include:
- Teen's partner is extremely jealous of possessive of your child - always texting and calling - to check up on your child.
- Teen has unexplainable bruises or other injuries.
- Teen has marked personality change.
- Teen has wild mood swings.
- Teen gives up things - time with friends/family, a treasured hobby - to spend more time with their partner.
- Teen is persistently depressed.
- Teen's school performance drops.
- Teen's partner verbally abuses your child, either calling him or her names or behaving in a demeaning manner.
- Teen becomes self-destructive.
- Drug abuse.
- Alcohol abuse.
- Sudden phobic behavior.
- Teen's partner abuses animals or other people.
Tips for Parents in Handling Dating Abuse:
Don't underestimate the amount and intensity of feelings a teen may have for their partner. One look at Twilight can tell you that teens experience deep love, too.
Remember that abuse can be from either sex and occur in same-sex relationships, too.
Don't ignore bruising or other injuries. Ask about them. Ask again. Let them know you care.
Communicate with your child about everything. Try to help them with whatever they're going through.
Explain what a healthy relationship is. If you haven't (or can't) model one, work toward explaining what is healthy and what is not. Use yourself as an example if you've been in an abusive relationship.
Talk to your child about what an abusive relationship constitutes. Explain the warning signs and ask the teen if they know anyone who has experienced teen dating abuse.
Remind your teen with your words that everyone is worthy of respect and love - everybody - including them, and that they deserve to be in a relationship that makes them feel good.
Resist passing judgment or coming across as overly judgmental when you're talking to your teenager. That's one of the best ways to get a teen to ignore your words.
Remember that adolescence is all about experimentation and self-expression; reassure your teen that you know that and you are not trying to take it away.
Make sure that your teen knows how you feel about dating violence.
Remind yourself that making mistakes and learning from them are part of being a teenager. Just as making mistakes are part of being a parent.
Remember the pressures your teenager faces every day. Being a teen is stressful stuff - pressure from peers, loved ones, and society, and if you can help them navigate the rocky waters, you're doing them a huge favor.
Provide them with the National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474.
Reasons It's Hard For Teens To Leave An Abusive Relationship:
- Love - teens may be in love with their partner, whether or not they're abusing them.
- Belief they can change their partner.
- Confusion - recognizing dating violence is hard, especially for a teenager.
- Denial - "it could always be worse."
- Shame or Guilt - it's especially shameful for teens who may believe the abuse is their fault.
- Belief when the abuser promises it won't happen again.
- Fear of retaliation/harm - teens may be afraid their partner will do something to hurt them or hurt themselves if they break up with their abusive partner.
- Fear of being alone.
- False hopes - teen may want to "help their partner" and believe the violence will stop.
- Fear of being outed if in a same-sex relationship.
- Peer or family pressure - the pressure to have a partner can feel very strong and comments from friends and family may make them feel worse and more alone.
- Low self-esteem - teen may believe in time, that they deserve the violence and abuse. They believe that they'll never find anyone better and accept their own unhappiness.
- Lack of information or resources about abuse.
Resources for Teen Dating Abuse:
Futures Without Violence - a national movement to promote healthy relationships through positive role modeling and respect education; provides parents, teachers, coaches and other role models with tools and resources necessary to teach young people about respect in relationships.
Love is Not Abuse - is a growing national grassroots coalition of parents, teachers and ANYONE advocating for teen dating abuse education in every middle school and high school in the country.
Break The Cycle - national nonprofit organization addressing teen dating violence. They work every day towards their mission to engage, educate and empower youth to build lives and communities free from domestic violence.
Directory of Crime Victim Services - designed to help service providers and individuals locate non-emergency crime victim service agencies in the United States and abroad. Search by location, type of victimization, service needed, agency type.