Teen Dating Violence
Tips for Parents
Dating violence is a vicious cycle that not only affects adults but also affects teens. One in five teens today say that they have been the victim of, or know a friend who has been the victim of, dating violence. Dating violence consists of verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. This pattern of abusive behavior is used to exert power and control over a dating partner. Typically, by the time physical abuse is present, a pattern of verbal and emotional abuse has already been established.
Dating violence has to be taken seriously. If not confronted, it can ultimately affect the rest of a young person’s life by introducing a cycle of unhealthy relationships with violent or abusive partners. Teens that stay in a violent relationship often become confused about what makes a healthy relationship and can begin to mistake abuse for love. As parents, talk to your child about dating violence and discuss the warning signs. Abusive behaviors are usually learned behaviors; therefore, it is important to be a good role model by setting positive examples through your own relationships.
AS A PARENT WHAT CAN I DO?
- Set an example. Displaying positive and healthy relationships will model appropriate relationships for your child.
- Talk to your child. Explain to your children what constitutes a healthy and respectful relationship. Assure your child that if he or she ever finds him or herself in a violent relationship that he or she is not to blame. Assure them that they can talk to you and that you are there to help them establish and navigate healthy relationships.
WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS?
- Makes excuses and apologizes for his or her partner’s behaviors
- Often has unexplained injuries, such as bruises or body pain
- Isolates him or herself from family and friends and only deals with his or her partner
- Has a dating partner who constantly texts or calls and demands to know where and with whom he or she has been.
- Changes his or her behavior in order not to anger or upset his or her partner
- Changes the way he or she dresses in order to please his or her partner
- Has a dating partner who puts him or her down and calls him or her names in front of others
- Has a partner who acts extremely jealous when others pay attention to him or her
- Is frequently upset or depressed and seems withdrawn but won’t explain why
TEN TIPS TO HELP YOUR TEEN
- Educate yourself on teen dating violence and access resources that will help you begin the discussion with your teen. Articles and brochures can help you approach your teen in an effective manner.
- Talk to your teen about dating violence early. If your teen seems already to be in a dangerous relationship, assure him or her that he or she is not to blame for his or her partner’s behavior and that you are there to help.
- Listen to your teen when he or she approaches you about dating abuse. Explain that you are going to help him or her get out of the situation.
- Emphasize that when he or she wants help, it is available. Let your child know that domestic violence tends to get worse, becomes more frequent with time, and rarely goes away on its own.
- Work with your teen to identify resources that will help him or her take care of his or herself, provide emotional support, and build self esteem.
- Look for opportunities to increase your child’s self esteem. Children who believe in themselves and their own worth are better able to choose good partners.
- Be realistic when talking to your teen. Teenagers often have a false picture of romantic relationships. Explain that abuse is not love.
- Share your standards. Talk to your teen about the way he or she should treat and respect others. Explain how you feel he or she should be treated in return.
- Create an open environment. Be open to all of the questions that your child asks. Don’t criticize, judge, or jump to conclusions when he or she asks about relationships.
- Try not to criticize or “put down” the abusive partner when talking to your teen. Maintaining a neutral position may help your teen to open up about his or her situation, rather than feeling that you’re bashing his or her partner.
WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
- Contact your child’s school and ask about introducing programs that teach children about dating violence and relationships.
- Work with the art teacher or students to create a visual statement against dating abuse. Consider a poster contest or other projects that can be displayed at the school.
- Encourage the school to obtain free materials and resources that discuss dating violence. The material should display a local hotline number for anyone in need of help.
For more information on teen dating violence visit www.ncpc.org