Seeing your teen off on a date can make you nervous. But parents also must think about a very frightening topic—teen dating violence.
Teen dating violence is worrisome. But it's not inevitable. You and your teen can prevent possibly unsafe situations and reduce the risk for problems.
Abuse is defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline as a pattern of behavior that maintains power and control that one person uses over another. It includes behavior that physically harms, causes fear, or prevents a partner from doing what they want to do. It also forces a person to behave in ways they don't want. Battering also includes the use of:
Physical and sexual violence
The pattern often begins with criticisms and demands from one partner. A person may tell their partner what clothes to wear. Or the person may tell their partner which friends they can see. The demands can get worse and become threats and rage. Teens may not know how to respond to the threatening behavior and mind games. Teens may think that they are to blame and that they deserve the abuse.
Teens rarely seek help. So parents should watch for warning signs.
Signs of physical abuse include:
Suddenly giving up friends or activities
Change in looks or clothing
Not doing schoolwork
Sudden anger or being secretive
Not letting you meet a date
Signs of emotional abuse include:
Depressed or withdrawn behavior
Use of alcohol or drugs
Angry or destructive behavior
Teens may not always recognize abuse. This is especially true for teens with low self-esteem. Teach both teen girls and boys. Be aware that researchers say some boys seem to feel it's OK to control girlfriends through violence.
It may be hard for your child to talk about problems in their dating life. Don't become angry or interfere if your child refuses to talk. Let them know that you care and that you want them to be safe. If you think that your child is the abuser in a relationship, confront them about it. Get them professional help.
What if you think your teen may be in an abusive relationship? Offer this advice:
Always tell someone about the evening's plans.
Consider double dating when possible.
Have a plan for what to do if a date becomes abusive.
Don't drink or take drugs.
Know and carry emergency contact information.
Trust your instincts.
Not getting into an abusive relationship is often a lot easier than getting out of one.