Dating abuse is a pattern of behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner and can be verbal, emotional, physical, sexual or a combination of these. Dating abuse can happen to both males and females, gay or straight.
Let Your Teen Know “I’m there for you at all times.”
Learning to identify the warning signs of an abusive relationship can help teens take care of themselves and recognize when something their partner does or says crosses the line. Talk with your tween or teen about early warning signs or red flags that her partner may eventually become abusive.
Quick involvement – Getting too close too soon
Controlling behaviors, such as telling her/him what to wear, who to talk to, etc.
Isolates him/her from friends and family
Uses force during an argument
Believes in rigid gender roles
Blames others for his/her problems or feelings
Abused former partners
Demands to know where he/she is at all times
Signs that your teen or ‘tween may be experiencing abuse:
- Loses interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Withdraws from friends and family
- Has unexplained injuries or explanation of injuries don’t make sense
- Begins having trouble with grades and/or school attendance
- Sudden changes in mood or personality
You may also notice:
- Your teen mentions their partner’s violent behavior, but insists “It isn’t a big deal”.
- Your teen’s partner emails/texts/calls excessively, and your teen seems afraid of not responding immediately.
If you notice something has changed, talk to your teen:
- Ask questions about their life
- Listen with an open mind
- Support your teen as they decide what to do
- Be calm and take positive action
- Remind your teen that abuse is never their fault – they deserve to be safe and happy.
“I’m there for you at all times” is a commitment to being available, being open and accepting and listening to your teen or ‘tween.
Below are some suggestions for talking with your teen or ‘tween about dating abuse:
Don’t lecture – listen with attention and without judgment.
Focus on the dialogue with your teen, don’t multi-task during these important conversations. It is okay to take a hike or shoot hoops, or even talk while in the car with just the two you. This can help your teen feel more comfortable.
Comment on life around you. Use a situation in a movie you are watching together, or lyrics in a song you both heard to start talking about healthy vs. abusive relationships.
Talk about teen dating violence often – one conversation isn’t enough.
Look up information or talk to a professional if you need reliable statistics or guidelines to support your teen. Contact us.
Questions from the list1 below can help you to start talking about teen dating violence with your child. You don’t have to ask every question at one time – use questions like those listed below to open a conversation.
- What are your friends dating relationships like?
- Why do you think someone would abuse their partner?
- Why do you think someone would stay in an abusive relationship?
- What makes a relationship healthy?
- What can you do if one of your friends is being abused – or if someone you know is being abusive?
- Are there certain roles for men and women in a relationship? Who decides these roles?
- What are some examples of romantic behaviors? What are some examples of behaviors that seem romantic but might actually be controlling?
- What messages do the media send about romance and abuse?
- How can texting or emailing contribute to abuse?
- What would you do if someone you were dating started to make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe?
What if your teen doesn’t want to talk and closes down? Find other ways to get the information to your teen. Talk to their best friend. Leave post-it notes. Send them a text. Leave a voice message or send an email. Put a note in their car or backpack. It’s never too early to get creative in how you communicate with your teen. Just make sure you keep trying and that they know you’re there for them.
1. From A Parent’s Guide to Teen Dating Violence by Liz Claiborne.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS: