How to Talk to Your Teen about Dating Violence

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With the beginning of school year, your teen will form relationships that set the stage for future relationships.  One in five high school students experience dating violence, so you will want to do your part to help your teen understand what a healthy relationship feels like. Your child is probably experiencing emotional, psychological, and physical changes.  And…while they need you more than ever to help them through these challenges, they are also seeking independence and turning to their peers.  It may seem easier to let them but, hang in there.....they really do need you.  This information will help you speak with your teen about healthy relationships, guidelines on how to navigate their world of cell phones and social networking and being an upstander versus a bystander.   
Teen Dating Abuse (TDA) is the actual or threatened act of physical, sexual, psychological, and verbal harm by a boyfriend, girlfriend, or someone wanting a romantic relationship.  It includes use of the internet, social networking sites, cell phones, or text messaging to harass, pressure or victimize.   
Warning signs:   
  • Spending less time with family and friends 
  • Excessive text messaging, phone calls, emailing or visiting with their new partner 
  • Giving up thing that were once important 
  • Declining grades or missing school 
  • Being pressured about what to do, where to go or what to wear 
  • Worries about upsetting their boyfriend or girlfriend or making excuses for their behavior 
  • Injuries they try to cover up or cannot explain 
Talk it out: 
  • Encourage open, honest, and thoughtful reflection about healthy relationships.   
  • Be sensitive and firm, but willing to talk openly and respect differences of opinion.   
  • Understand teen development.  There will be mood swings and risk-taking.  Research reveals that adolescent brain development during these formative years play an important role in their personality and actions. 
  • Understand the pressure and the risk teens face:  intimacy, substance abuse and dating. Be there to listen and help them think through situations they face. 
  • Take a clear stand. Express your feelings about disrespect, use of abusive or inappropriate language, controlling behavior or any form of violence. 
  • Make the most of “teachable moments”: use movies, news, community events or the experiences of friends to discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships. 
  • Discuss how to be an ‘upstander’.  Teach them how to stand-up for friends when observing unhealthy behavior, but only if it is safe to do so. 
  • Accentuate the positive.  Address factors that promote healthy adolescent development and relationships. 
  • Be an active participant in your teen’s life.  Know more about their friends and interests and find activities to do together.   
  • Be prepared to make mistakes.  Accept your mistakes but continue to help your teen make responsible choices even as you attempt to maintain that delicate balance of being sensitive, but firm. 
If you suspect your teen may be a victim of abuse, you are their most important resource and advisor.  Remind them that they deserve a relationship free of abuse.  Make sure they understand that type of behavior is NEVER appropriate and NEVER their fault.  
If you believe that your child may be controlling, abusive or violent, remind them that it is not acceptable, and that violence will not solve problems.  Abuse is a choice.  There are resources and counselors that can help them understand the consequences and alternatives to violence, and how to stop the abuse.  Remember that there are confidential, trained individuals available to help your teen if they are not willing to communicate with you. 

 

Resources: 
Love is Respect:  www.loveisrespect.org  
National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) www.ndvh.org  
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network Hotline: 800-656-4673 
www.rainn.org  
Contact the Victim Advocate at (318)992-2067/cwilson@lasalleso.com) for assistance if you are a victim of domestic violence. If you are in immediate danger, dial 911.