The teen years are an exciting, meaningful time in any young person’s life. Your teenager is growing up rapidly, learning valuable lifelong lessons, honing their decision-making skills and moving more toward becoming an independent adult. However, as mature as your teen daughter or son might be, it’s essential to remember that the rational part of their brain hasn’t finished developing yet, so your advice and guidance will still be essential in helping them make smart choices.
It’s never too early to talk to your teen about healthy relationships, setting boundaries and spotting potential warning signs of a friend who might not have their best interests at heart. Even if you don’t think your teenager is dating yet, starting these conversations is an essential part of helping your child improve their emotional maturity. As a parent or guardian, you also have a valuable role to play in preventing dating violence. Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month represents an excellent jumping-off point to start this conversation.
What Is Teen Dating Violence?
While you may picture violent behavior as solely physical, like hitting or pushing, other forms of harm fall into the category of teen dating violence as well. These can include verbal and psychological abuse, stalking and non-consensual sexual roughness.
Many forms of violence take place in person, but remember that teens are digital natives. Unsolicited sexting or sharing a partner’s private photos on social media without their consent are other types of teen dating violence you should be aware of, especially since the signs of online abuse can be much subtler.
Teen dating violence is more prevalent than you might realize, according to eye-opening information from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. Among American high school students, nearly one in 11 girls and approximately one in 15 boys report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year. Also, 26% of women and 15% of men who have been victims of abuse, domestic violence or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced these issues before their 18th birthday.
Tips for Talking to Your Teen
Because teen dating violence can set the stage for a lifetime of problematic, one-sided or abusive relationships, adults must help teenagers learn to identify unhealthy or risky relationship behaviors by providing positive examples. For instance, if you’re watching a movie that features one or more negative relationships, take advantage of the opportunity to talk about this depiction. Even if your teen seems unwilling to listen, they’ll still retain the information.
If your teen is dating someone, ask them questions about their partner. Without prying, express interest in the relationship and encourage your teenager to be open with you about it. If you have any reason to suspect something is wrong, set aside a time to speak with your teen in private. It may be uncomfortable to bring up touchy subjects like dating and intimacy at first, but doing so can save you and your teenager from heartbreak down the road. Reinforce the message that you are always ready to talk, and that your teen should never feel embarrassed to come to you with questions about complicated topics.
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Teens who fall prey to dating violence may get caught in a long-lasting cycle of dysfunctional relationships and can be more vulnerable to behavioral health issues like substance abuse. As a parent or guardian, you can play a vital role in helping your child form healthy, mutually beneficial attachments.
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