Being a teenager is hard. We all remember bits and pieces of our own experience. Being a teenager now is a whole different world with new challenges and more danger. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and today we are going to talk about the facts. The month of love is bound to bring up topics like crushes, significant others, and first loves. It's fun and exciting when the relationship is healthy and the kids are respectful. What happens when they aren't?
There are many types of abuse. Economic, physical, psychological, and sexual. Teens might find themselves in situations where their partner can afford to give them expensive gifts and use that as a form of control. Physical abuse is the intentional use of force to harm. Psychological abuse might be harder to understand. It is the use of verbal and nonverbal communication with the intent to harm the partner mentally, emotionally, and/or to exert control. Finally, there is sexual abuse which is any form of non-consensual sexual contact.
We think it could never happen to our child, yet 1 in 3 teens experience dating violence. That is a staggering number. There are steps we can take in raising our teens that can reduce that number. First and foremost, create a welcoming space for your child to talk about their partner. Disclosing abuse is hard for victims, especially at such a young age. Discuss what expectations they should have for their relationships, even friendships. Help your teen identify warning signs that a relationship might be unhealthy or unsafe. Sharing personal stories can help, if you or someone you knew was abused by a dating partner and you share it with your teen, it will build trust. Use our Dating Bill of Rights and Relationship Red Flags tools to aid the dialogue and provide your child with objective information to gauge the health of their relationship.
Don't forget that repetition is key; building a relationship with your teen that includes discussing their romantic life will take time. Be sure to regularly open a dialogue and take an interest in their lives and relationships.