February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. There is a lot that you can do as a parent/caring adult to prevent teen dating violence and abuse.
About 1 in 10 teens who have been on a date have also been physically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the last year. One of the most important things you can do is keep the lines of communication open with your kids.
Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.
Though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.
-Educate yourself on some of the warning signs:
Your child’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive.
You notice unexplained marks or bruises.
Your child’s partner emails or texts excessively.
You notice that your child is depressed or anxious.
Your child stops participating in extracurricular activities or other interests.
Your child stops spending time with other friends and family.
Your child’s partner abuses other people or animals.
Your child begins to dress differently.
Your child reports that their partner tells them what they can and cannot do.
So how can you help a teen you suspect is in an unhealthy relationship?
-It is important to resist the urge to tell your teen what to do, they have probably heard this already and it will just make them more likely to tune you out. Chances are they are already questioning if the relationship is right for them, but hearing from another person that they should leave, will only put them on the defense. Instead, try asking them what they like about their partner, what IS working in the relationship and show them that you are interested in hearing from them, not just telling them what to do. This will help them to be less defensive and feel they can trust you. Show curiosity and ask them to help you understand why they stay (there are likely some good qualities to the relationship and understanding these can help you understand why it might be hard for them to leave).
-Ask how it makes them feel rather than labeling it for them. Saying “It seems like your partner wants to know where you are a lot and is always texting and calling – how does that make you feel?” pinpoints the specific behavior and gets them to think about how it makes them feel.
-Ask them “how would you feel if your best friend/little sister was dating someone just like this person? Love can blind us sometimes, but asking the teen to imagine that someone they care about about/look after was dating someone like their partner can help them get some perspective.Some people will put up with behaviors they know are not healthy in their own relationships but would not be happy to see someone else in the same type of relationship. Getting them to think outside of their own situation can help them see the bigger picture.
-Talk about self-love. There's a phrase, “we accept the love we think we deserve”. Many young people have low self-esteem and don't think very highly of themselves, these people are more susceptible to unhealthy relationships because they don't think that they deserve better. Talking to the youth about how they see themselves and ways to be kinder and more accepting of themselves can help make it more about them than about their partner. Point out their good qualities that you see, what makes them special and unique ect. Encourage them to talk themselves up when you hear them putting themselves down. Be a good role model, show them what it's like to be confident and self-accepting. Building their self-esteem can help them see that they deserve to be treated well by their partner.
-Talk about boundaries. Adolescence is often a time of blurred boundaries. Teens sometimes get caught in the group mentality, they are looking to fit in and be a part of the group. It is harder for them to recognize the importance of boundaries and taking care of themselves. Talk about how it is okay to say “no” when they don't like something or don't want to do something. Saying no brings up fears of not being accepted or liked but it is important to teach that healthy boundaries are key to a happy life. We can't always say “yes” to others.
-Be a role model – Discuss examples of healthy relationships with your child, pointing out unhealthy behaviors and use examples from people they might know from pop-culture or your social circle.
-Start talking to your kids about healthy relationships early – before they start dating.
Be supportive and nonjudgmental so they know they can come to you for help if their relationship becomes unhealthy in the future.
-Get involved with efforts to prevent dating violence at your teen’s school.
Alameda high school is hosting an event titled "respect week"for teen dating violence.
-Know about resources.
You or your teen can call the loveisrespect helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522.
If you or your teen would like therapy to help assess teen dating violence or to process the effects of dating violence please reach out to Audrina Smith for a free 20 minute phone consultation at (510) 877-0711