Teen Dating Abuse Tips for Parents
Approximately eight percent of all teens experienced physical dating violence in the last twelve months, according to a 2017 CDC national survey. This includes hitting, pinching, shoving, kicking, or forcing them to engage in a sex act when he or she does not or is not able to consent. About 29 percent of them had been subjected to verbal or psychological abuse during the last twelve months by their boyfriend or girlfriend. This includes one or more of the following: shaming, bullying, controlling, name-calling, stalking, or isolating him or her from friends and/or family. It also includes texting, social media, or other online abuse.
Teens in abusive dating relationships are more likely to become involved in abusive relationships as adults. Many of these victims become addicted to drugs or alcohol, develop eating disorders, and suffer from trauma, PTSD or depression, some becoming suicidal. Here are some important tips for parents:
Talk with your teen about dating abuse. Discuss the prevalence and dangers of teen dating abuse with your child. Talk with him or her about choosing healthy and respectful relationships with others. Reassure your child that you are there to protect and help them. Spend quality time together and ask open-ended questions. Turn off the television and cellphones during mealtimes so that you can engage your teen in conversation.
Look for signs of abuse. Only one in three teens will tell anyone about the abuse, so it is your job to be observant. There are telltale signs that may indicate that abuse is going on. Look out out for isolating or apathetic behavior, overeating, overconsumption of caffeine or sugar, unexpected mood swings, unexplained bruises, secretiveness, smoking, drinking, drug use, poor grades, delinquency, anxiety, low self-esteem, defensiveness, depression, self-harming behaviors, or promiscuity.
Get help. If you have strong suspicions of abuse, be compassionate and remain calm when you talk with your teen about it. If he or she is unwilling to talk with you, call the National Dating Abuse Helpline, at 866-331-9474, or schedule an appointment with a family counselor. Do not delay, as your teen may be at risk for additional abuse.
Rosemary Lombardy is a financial advisor with over 35 years of experience and domestic abuse survivor. She is the founder of Breaking Bonds, a free resource for abused women, and author of Breaking Bonds: How to Divorce an Abuser and Heal-A Survival Guide.