For many parents, the teenage years in their child’s life can be one of the most stressful and confusing times to help navigate. These are the transformative years in which a child learns how to evaluate and handle the difficulties that adults come across later in life. These difficulties can include everything from school to friendships to dating. It is between the ages of 13 to 18 that teens develop habits that will affect how they handle personal relations throughout their lives. As a parent, it can be hard to know when to intervene and when to let your child learn on your own.

Unfortunately, dating violence is something that happens to thousands of teens all over the country every year. Dating violence is defined as “… a pattern of assaultive and controlling behaviors that one person uses against another in order to gain or maintain power and control in the relationship.” 

While many people only believe that domestic violence happens in marriages or long-term relationships, violence in a relationship can happen at any stage including during the teenage years. Learn more about how to talk to your teen about dating violence here.

Establish Open Communication Early On

Teenagers are very easily influenced, especially when they are surrounded by influences on social media, in music and on television. Because of this, it’s important to educate your teenager on what a healthy relationship looks like, as well as what it doesn’t look like. If you and your teenager are watching a movie that includes scenes of domestic violence, use the opportunity to talk with them about what is shown on the screen. By encouraging positive habits and pointing out negative ones, you can help your teen build their own healthy relationship habits.

Talk to Your Teen Privately

During their formative years, teens are especially sensitive to perceived judgment and the opinions of others. They may be embarrassed about their situation and will get defensive if multiple people are trying to talk to them about their current situation. Find a private space where your teen is comfortable in order to have a calm and meaningful conversation.

Talk to Both Daughters and Sons

While most domestic violence statistics report women as victims and men as the abusers, the truth is both sexes can be victims. It’s equally important to educate both daughters and sons about what dating violence can look like. Along with having open conversations, it’s important to keep an eye out for changes in behavior and mood. If your teen is engaging in violence or experiencing it, it’s important to go over the legal consequences as well.

Recognize the Signs

Both victims and abusers come from all types of economic, faith-based, and racial backgrounds. This does not change the fact that every survivor deserves to have resources, support and safety. It has even recently been stated that Covid-19 quarantine and isolation has led to an increase in domestic violence. Because of how common dating violence and domestic violence is, it’s important to recognize the signs, which can include:

Isolation– Cutting off the abused from friends, family and social support.

Intimidation– Making the abused fearful using threats against loved ones, pets, and destruction of property. 

Coercion– Threatening to leave the abused for another partner if they do not give in to the abusers demands. 

Physical– Using physical behaviors such as hitting, kicking, and slapping to intimidate or control the abused.

Emotional– Humiliating the abused in a public setting or guilt-trips the abused when they stand up for themselves.

If your child has been the victim of dating violence, it’s important to act quickly. Contact the authorities and put proper precautions in place to avoid any escalation. Talking with your teenager early on can help avoid the progression and severity of dating violence.