Tips for Talking to Your Teen about Dating Abuse
- Even if your teen is not yet dating, talk to them about relationships, and the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Make sure they know what they should and should not be experiencing in a relationship.
- Don't be evasive; talk openly about abuse. You can help protect your teen by helping them understand what abuse is so they can recognize the signs.
- Tell your teen that you are there to listen and not judge—make sure they know that they can talk to you about things without you getting upset.
- Ask open ended questions to get your teen talking. Make sure it is not a one-sided conversation, and that you are respectful of your teen's thoughts.
- Don't make this a one-time conversation. Let your teen know they can continue the conversation at any time, and don't be afraid to reopen it yourself.
If You Suspect Abuse
- If you suspect abuse, don't accuse or blame your teen. No victim asks to experience abuse, and abuse is a complicated dynamic, especial in a teen dating relationship. Tell your teen that the abuse was not their fault and you are there to help make decisions about what to do.
- When talking about what you think might be abuse, use concrete examples of behaviors or incidence that worry you. Using generalizations like: "Your boyfriend is a jerk" or "I don't like your girlfriend" don't help. Try: "I've noticed that lately X has yelled at you angrily and called you names, and that worries me." Emphasize that you are worried about your teen and want to help.
- If your teen admits to abuse but does not want to break up with the abuser, don’t establish an ultimatum and try and force the break-up. Denial is frequently the first reaction of a teen in an unhealthy relationship, and an ultimatum may push your teen away, and right back into the arms of the abuser. Work together with your teen to find a solution.
- If your teen resists talking to you, don't give up after the first attempt. Reiterate that you just want to make sure your teen is safe, and that you are always there if they want to talk to you.
- If your teen is injured, help them seek medical attention. In some cases, it might be a good idea to see a mental health professional.
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1.866.331.9474, www.loveisrespect.org
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