Your teen is now in a relationship. However, lately you have been noticing that maybe this relationship is not healthy. Your son or daughter has been slowly been isolating themselves by not hanging out with their friends or family or no longer participating in extracurricular events at school. They are seemingly more depressed or anxious. Perhaps they start to dress differently. If you are noticing these changes in your teen, look at their partner to see if you catch them name calling, texting or emailing constantly, angry outbursts or jealousy. If you are seeing these signs, it’s time to have a difficult talk with your teen.
Your suspicions are correct, now what?
Start the discussion. Your initial reaction is to help any way you can. Starting a conversation that will lead to your teen leaving the toxic relationship and getting help instead of seeking the support of their abuser is vital to the health of your teen. Here are some valuable insights to remember while speaking with your teen.
- Listen and give support: It is easy to be accusatory, but you need to let your teen know that no one deserves to be abused. They may be embarrassed or ashamed to speak of the abuse.
- Accept what your teen is telling you: Believe what they are telling you. Offer unconditional support. This is where you LISTEN, don’t judge.
- Talk about behaviors, not the person: Remember that your teen is still probably “in love” with their partner. Single out the behavior. “I really don’t like that you need to spend so much time texting where you are and who you are with”.
- Avoid ultimatums: Leaving is the most difficult and often most dangerous time for abuse victims. If you force them to break it off, ground them or threaten their future dating, chances are you may drive them right back into the arms of their abuser.
- Be prepared: There are many online sources to educate yourself on teen dating abuse. Do your homework. Then approach your teen with what a healthy relationship looks like.
- Decide on the steps together: You can ask what steps they would like to take next. If they are still uncomfortable speaking with you regarding their relationship, provide them with any of the support services listed below.
It is okay if you don’t know all the answers. Be supportive to your teen. If they are unwilling to talk right away, back off and try again later.
My teen isn’t in a relationship right now.
This is the perfect time to approach your teen and talk about healthy relationships, what they look like, are their friends involved in healthy relationships, what signs to look for in their own relationship and/or their friend’s relationships. Let them know that they have your support and can come to you with any dating concerns. Remind them they have the right to say “NO” to anything they are not comfortable with. Most importantly, be aware and involved in your teen’s personal and social media life.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, it is encouraged that you and your friends wear orange on February 12, 2019, to show your support and awareness for teen dating violence.
Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 866-331-9474
Community Referral Agency (local) 800-261-7233 or text line 715-553-3369
Information in this article have been taken from these sites.
Submitted by: Joan Spencer, Development Director at Community Referral Agency
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