Teen Dating Violence is on the Rise: What Can Parents Do?

Dating violence is any form of abuse that takes place in a relationship including physical, sexual, mental, or emotional abuse. For teenagers, it has become a widespread problem that has serious effects on a developing teen.

A study done by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that, “Of U.S. students who said they were dating, 21 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys said they had been victims of physical and sexual violence from a dating partner in the last 12 months.” In some communities, the numbers are even worse.

With teens becoming romantic at such a young age, as young as 12 and 13 years old, it is imperative for you to discuss healthy relationships with your teen early and often.

To help, here are 5 things you can do to help reduce the likelihood that your teen will experience any form of dating abuse:

Define a healthy relationship

Helping your teen understand what a healthy relationship is will help them set their own standards for dating. Of course, you want those standards to be high. Discussing healthy relationship habits will give them the idea of the kind of person they want to date. According to Dr. Doug Haddad, there are three important components that make a healthy relationship. They are:

  1. Communication: In a healthy relationship, each partner feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings without being fearful or made to feel guilty or fear of being slapped.
  2. Compromise: Every relationship experiences disagreements. In healthy relationships, both parties look to find common ground and try to find a solution to the problem in a peaceful manner.
  3. Care: Caring for someone is respecting that person enough to be compassionate and supportive of that person. It is offering encouragement to build each other up rather than looking to put each other down.

All three of these components work together to create a healthy relationship. Discuss with your teen often about what makes a healthy relationship. Be sure to show them good and bad examples through the media and real life.

Be an Example

Better than discussing with your teen about healthy relationships is showing them what a healthy relationship looks like. Let your relationships be an example. If you are a single parent, show them through your own dating decisions what is healthy.

Our actions always ring louder than our words. Be the example they need. Many times children end up dating the same kind of people their parents do.

Monitor Social Media

The majority of a teenager’s social life takes place online. Several romantic relationships begin online well before they begin in the real world. Take an active role in your child’s social media use.

Know the social media platforms that your teen uses. Use the same platforms yourself. Being active on social media will give you a good look at your teen’s life. It will also keep you in touch with relevant subjects and events that can provide great examples of what is and isn’t healthy.

Pay Attention

As a parent, it is important that you are always on alert. Get to know every boyfriend/girlfriend your teen dates. Have them over at your home, let them join in on family activities.

Also, pay attention to any signs of abuse. Some of the common signs are responding quickly and frantically to texts or calls from their partner, frequently crying as a result of relationship problems, making excuses for inappropriate behavior, engaging in risky behaviors such as drugs and alcohol use, appearing anxious or depressed, or participating in unsafe sexual acts. These are warning signs that your teen could be in a dangerous relationship, and might need help.

Have an Open Dialogue

Let your teen know they can always confide in you and ask any questions. Look for opportunities to point out examples to them. Teens are always listening even when it seems like they aren’t. Be a listener as well. Listen more than you talk. You will be surprised at what comes up.

Be relatable to your teen. Let them know that you too also faced many of the same things they are facing. Give them specific examples from your life. Let them know when you feel something is awkward or embarrassing. This will help your teen confide in you more.

Raising a teenager is no easy task. In today’s world, it is even harder. The number one thing as a parent and caretaker is to trust your intuition. No one knows your child better than you do. Be present in their lives, and stay on alert. You can be the shield that protects them from abuse.