Your teen has started dating! You have set up healthy boundaries and rules for them to follow. You stay involved and you ask the ‘right’ questions. But you recently hear a scary statistic about teen dating violence. Every one out of three youth in America are victims of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
Physical abuse will often times leave evidence. It’s the emotional and verbal kind that are harder to spot. The goal is to identify red flags in the beginning stages of the relationship.
Here are some questions and scenarios that may help you protect your teen from an abusive relationship.
“What does [partner’s name] think of you having opposite gender friends? In real life and on social media?”
- Their answer will say a lot! If their partner is jealous of opposite gender friendships, they will most likely make your child delete friends on social media, and expects them to not communicate with their old friends because of their gender. These are indications of unconscious manipulative behaviors that attempt to isolate your child from healthy friendships.
“How does your partner get along with your friends? What does [enter good friend’s name] think of [partner]?”
- Does their partner not let them hang out with their friends anymore? Do your teen’s friends not like their partner? Have they said why? Whenever healthy friendships end because of a dating relationship it is usually a red flag that the dating relationship is unbalanced and unhealthy. Friendships are essential for identity development and mental health wellness.
“I noticed you started/stopped wearing [whichever outfits you noticed]. Does [their partner’s name] like the change?”
- Some partners help your teen stop wearing sweatpants and t-shirts or tons of makeup to school every day; Hey, us mama’s aren’t complaining! However, a teen who makes a change in their appearance as a tool to keep a partner makes their worth contingent on their partner’s opinion. We know opinions are inaccurate and inconsistent with reality, causing distorted views of self and others, leading to harmful and destructive relationships. Asking someone to dress nicely to an event because it is socially expected is one thing, asking them to change their day to day appearance because their partner demands it, is disrespectful and harmful to self-esteem.
A teen who makes a change in their appearance as a tool to keep a partner makes their worth contingent on their partner’s opinion.
Other scenarios to look for:
- Partner sulks or gets angry when your teen doesn’t respond to a text, call, or chat immediately.
- Partner goes through your teen’s phone with or without asking, with the intention of snooping.
- Partner doesn’t attend family invites to hang out at your house.
- Partner threatens to harm self or others if your teen doesn’t respond in the way the partner desires.
- Your teen becomes fearful to disagree with their partner.
It’s scary to realize that we don’t have control over our teen’s decisions, but as long as they live in our house we can make sure that we are doing all that we can to help equip them and protect them from things that will harm.
Readers, we’d love to hear from you: do you have other additional ideas about how to protect your teenagers?