Advice for Parents and Teens

Understanding Teen Dating Violence: Advice for Parents and Teens

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, which aims to shed light on the concerning issue of abuse in young romantic relationships. As mental health professionals who work with teenagers, we feel it’s important for parents and teens alike to educate themselves on recognizing unhealthy behaviors and getting help.

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence encompasses emotional, verbal, sexual, or physical abuse by one partner towards another in a teenage romantic relationship. It can take many forms, such as name-calling, controlling behaviors, coercion, threats, intimidation, physical violence, and rape. New technologies and social media have also enabled additional avenues for abuse through harassment, stalking, and image sharing.

Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

As a parent or teen, you may wonder what counts as unhealthy behavior in a young relationship. Some warning signs of teen dating violence to look out for include:

  • One partner exerting control over the other’s activities, friends, clothing choices, or finances
  • Pressuring or forcing sexual contact
  • Putting the partner down, name-calling, bullying, or trying to emotionally isolate them from loved ones
  • Extremes of jealousy, like unfounded accusations of cheating
  • Making threats to harm their partner, pets, possessions, or themselves if the partner leaves
  • Actual physical violence of any kind, like hitting, shoving, or kicking

These behaviors from a partner, online or offline, indicate an unhealthy power imbalance and lack of respect that can escalate over time.

Seeking Help

Being able to identify warning signs is crucial so that intervention can happen before abuse worsens. As a parent, if you believe your child is in an abusive relationship, express concern and be available to talk about it openly and without judgment. In some cases where there are threats, violence, or sexual abuse, you may need to report the unhealthy behaviors to your child’s school or other authorities.

As a teen, it can be very difficult to realize your relationship has taken an abusive turn. Confide in a parent, counselor, or other trusted adult if you have any doubts about how you are being treated. Getting an outside perspective is key, and there are people who want to help you. If you ever feel you are in immediate physical danger, call emergency services.

There are also confidential hotlines to call or text for support, information, crisis intervention, and resources that can help you safely navigate an abusive situation:

  • The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
  • Loveisrespect.org hotline or text line (text LOVEIS to 22522)
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Exiting Unsafe Situations

Ending an unhealthy teen relationship can be extremely difficult but necessary for your safety and well-being. With support from family and professionals, you can regain your sense of self and heal. It may help to:

  • Surround yourself with people who build you up and offer empathy without judgment
  • Avoid further direct contact with your abusive ex whenever possible
  • Take steps to safely rebuild your independence like changing passwords, blocking accounts, etc.
  • Seek counseling to process trauma and identify healthy patterns going forward

The most important thing is prioritizing your physical and emotional safety by removing yourself from harmful situations. Teen dating violence manifests in many ways and no one deserves to have their boundaries crossed by a romantic partner.

Conclusion

We hope this information can help spark open, ongoing conversations between parents and teens about the early warning signs of dating violence. Teachers, counselors, coaches, and other mentors of youth can also play a role in prevention education. Understanding healthy relationship basics like mutual respect, compromise, and consent empowers young people to stand up for themselves and others. If you or someone you know needs more information or support, please reach out. We’re here to help.

 

 

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