Dating violence is not as rare as people may believe. Dating violence is a viscous cycle that not only affects adults but also affects teens as well. One in 5 teens today say that he or she has been or know a friend who has been a victim of dating violence. Dating violence consists of verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. It is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. By the time physical abuse is present, a pattern of verbal and emotional abuse has already been established.
Dating violence has to be taken seriously. If not confronted, it can ultimately affect the rest of a young person’s life by setting a pattern of dating violent partners. The longer a teen stays in a violent relationship the more likely he or she will be confused about what constitutes a healthy relationship. As parents, you should talk to your child about dating violence.
AS A PARENT WHAT CAN I DO?
The first thing you should do as a parent is set an example. Children learn how to conduct themselves in relationship by observing their parents. Displaying positive and healthy relationships will help them judge what is appropriate behavior. Another thing you can do is talk to them early about dating violence, explain to them what a healthy and respectful relationship looks like. Let them know that if they ever find themselves in a violent relationship, that they are not to blame. Assure them that they can talk to you and that you are there to help them have a safe and happy life.
WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS?
- Your child makes excuses and apologies for his or her partner’s behaviors.
- She or he often has unexplained injuries, such as bruises or body pain, that can’t be explained or seem not to make sense.
- Your child seems to be distancing him or herself from family and friends, becomes isolated, and deals only with his or her partner.
- Your child’s dating partner constantly texts or calls and demands to know who he or she has been with.
- You find that your child is changing his or her behavior in order not to anger or upset his or her partner.
- Your child changes the way he or she dresses in order to please his or her partner.
- When your child’s dating partner seems to put her down and call her names in front of others.
- Your child’s partner acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to him or her, especially members of the opposite sex.
- Your child is frequently upset or depressed and seems withdrawn and quiet but won’t explain why.
TEN TIPS TO HELP YOUR TEEN
- Educate yourself on teen dating violence and access resources that will help you begin the discussion with your teen about dating violence. Articles and brochures can help you approach your teen in an effective manner.
- Talk to your teen about dating violence early. If your teen seems already to be in a dangerous relationship, assure her that she is not to blame for her partner’s behavior and that you’re there to help.
- Listen to your teen when he or she approaches you about dating abuse. Explain that you are going to help him or her get out of the situation.
- Emphasize that when he or she wants help, it is available. Let your child know that domestic violence tends to get worse and become more frequent with time and that it rarely goes away on its own.
- Work with your teen to identify resources that will help provide emotional support and build self esteem.
- Try to avoid the impulse to rescue your teen; instead empower him or her. Let him or her know that you will be there to help sort through feelings but you won’t make decisions for him or her.
- Look for opportunities to increase your child’s self-esteem. People who believe in themselves and their own worth are better able to believe in the worth of their partner.
- Be realistic when talking to your teen. Teenagers often have a false picture of romantic relationships. Explain that every relationship has its up and downs. Talk about effective ways of dealing with conflict, such as negotiation, problem solving, and communication.
- Share your standards. Talk to your teen about the way he or she should treat and respect others; furthermore, explain how you feel he or she should be treated in return.
- Create an open environment. Be open to all of the questions that your child asks. Don’t criticize, judge, or jump to conclusions when he or she asks about relationships.
WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
- Contact your child’s school and ask about introducing programs that teach children about dating violence and relationships.
- Work with the art teacher or art students to create a visual statement against dating abuse. Consider a poster contest or other project that can be displayed at the school.
- Encourage the school to obtain free materials and resources that relate to dating violence.