February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Statistics show that 1 out of 3 high school teens are in an abusive relationship. Have you talked to your teens about it?
Teen dating violence is typically not talked about or hidden for various reasons such as, that the teens are inexperienced in dating and are uneducated as to what’s right/wrong in a relationship. Or, it could be, that they allow the violence to continue because they want independence from parents and their partners give that to them. Yet other times, they start slipping down the slippery slope and they don’t know how to stop it.
Why do teens often experience violence in relationships? Dating violence happens in all social, racial and economic classes. However, most victims are women. And at least one person in the relationship is trying to control, or maintain power over the other person. Teen dating violence is influenced by how teenagers look at themselves and others. For example, young girls may believe that the jealousy and possessiveness is romantic, or they might not know any better because their friends are in similar situations. That’s why education is key. By having parents talking to their teens before they start dating, or while they are dating, it helps keep the lines of communication open, helps keep teens safe.
As a parent, you’re probably wondering, what can I share with my teen, what are some warning signs they should be aware of? Some warning signs in a partner that teens should be aware of are: isolation from family or friends, extreme jealousness, controlling behavior, rigid sex roles, doesn’t take responsibilities for own problems or feelings, cruel to children, animals or family members, unpredictable mood swings, substance (drugs/alcohol) abuse, threatens violence or uses forceful actions when upset. That’s a pretty long list, but how many of our teenagers are dating boys with several of these characteristics?
A way to protect your teenagers is by teaching them safe dating skills. Some examples would be, considering double dating the first few times they go out with a new person, or letting you (the parent) know where they are going and what time they are coming home. As a parent, you should remind your teens that no one deserves to be threatened or physically hurt. Things typically will not get “better” and you cannot change the person who is hurting you. It’s important to let the teenagers in your life know that they don’t feel comfortable to you, they should still talk to a mentor or adult they trust. Parents, if your teenager is already dating and you are suspecting they might be in an abusive relationship, some signs that you should look for are: isolation, physical signs of injury, changes in mood or personality, and truancy or failing grades. If this is your teen, it’s important to ask your teen about their relationship, listen to them, and explain good relationships. The “asking” is the easiest portion. The “listening” is the hardest. Remember to keep an open mind, do not judge and try to be positive. Of course, explaining the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships can be difficult for some parents. Do the best that you can, your teen, will hopefully see your effort. It will be easier for the teen to leave the relationship if they can see the differences and have support from adults around them.