February is Teen Dating Violence month. However, this is an issue that should spark conversation on a regular basis.
Take a look a these stats courtesy of loveisrespect.org.
Each year, one and a half million high schoolers are physically abused by their partner.
Ten percent of high schoolers have been physically abused by their partner.
One-third of teens have been abused by a partner, either physically, emotionally, sexually, or verbally.
One-third of teens involved in an abusive relationship did not tell anyone about it.
Twenty-five percent of high school females have been physically or sexually abused.
And here is one more statistic for you:
Over 80% of parents do not even realize teen dating violence is an issue.
Yikes. Let the conversation begin!
It is wise to have the initial conversation before your child begins dating, around late elementary school and into middle school. At that age it may not be necessary to discuss teen dating violence, rather focus on exploring what a healthy relationship looks like. As your child gets older, he will become more aware of relationship violence merely by listening to music, watching TV and movies, or even in the halls of the school. You can use those experiences to build upon your ongoing conversations. Introducing dialogue about relationships at a young age will help keep the lines of communication open over the teenage years and beyond.
When attempting to engage a young person in conversation, I have found enticing them with food helps inspire dialogue.
Follow these simple suggestions:
1. Invite your son or daughter to coffee/tea/ice cream/dinner.
2. Forewarn them you have something you would like to talk to them about. It helps prepare them for an adult conversation.
3. As you joyfully dig into your ice cream sundae, explain to them that how much you love them. You will definitely get the eyeball roll, but that is okay – it means “I love you, too” in kid-speak.
4. Explain your desire for them to experience healthy friendships and romantic relationships now and in the future.
5. Let your child do the talking. You will learn more about your child by listening than by talking!
6. Be sure to ask open-ended questions. “Yes” and “no” questions will get you nowhere fast.
Now you actually have to converse.
So, what should you talk about? How do you start? What do you say?
You will find the conversation will naturally progress. But if not, here are three important conversation starters and detailed talking points you can use.
1. “Tell me how you describe a healthy relationship.”
- What are your values? What is important to you? Do your friends and/or partner respect those values? How do you know? Do you respect their values? How do you show them? Do you share similar values?
- What are your goals and future plans? Do your friends and significant other support them? How do you know? Do you support their goals? How?
- Are you comfortable communicating to your friends and/or partner about your relationship when it comes to emotions and sex? How often do you have these conversations? Who usually approaches the subject? Do you feel respected when having these conversations? Do you respect their thoughts?
- Do you encourage each other to hang out with your own friends and family? How often do you call or text each other? How often do you hang out with people other than your significant other?
- How do you feel when you are with your partner? Happy, excited, valued? Uncomfortable, disappointed, confused?
- Do you feel safe with your partner? What makes you feel safe with them?
2. “Would you recognize verbal abuse? Emotional abuse? Physical abuse? Sexual abuse?”
- Making insulting or cutting remarks towards their partner. They may say “just kidding!”, but it is not funny.
- Yelling at their partner.
- They may not allow their partner to spend time with friends or family.
- They may want to know where their partner is at all times.
- They may tell their partner how to behave or what to wear.
- They may be unusually possessive or jealous.
- Hitting, slapping, or any kind of physical touch that is inappropriate or hurtful.
- Forcing their partner to perform sex acts that their partner is not comfortable with or without consent.
- They may control what kind of birth control they are or are not permitted to use.
General red flags:
- Who are your partner’s friends? Are they people you would choose to be friends with, too?
- Is your partner quick to anger?
- Does your partner use drugs/alcohol and encourage you to, as well?
3. “Would you be able to recognize signs that someone is being abused?
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, what would you do?”
- Academically their grades may be deteriorating.
- Neglecting relationships and spending all of their free time with their boyfriend/girlfriend.
- Not participating in their usual activities.
- Physical signs of abuse such as bruising.
- Seek help from a trusted adult.
- School personnel, parents, and abuse hotlines can all offer help and advice.
- Break off the relationship, but follow safety guidelines.
- Do not be alone with your partner.
- Always let someone know where you are.
- Keep a phone with you at all times.
- Seek counseling. The effects of being abused can be far-reaching.
If you feel you are at risk of abusing someone you care about, seek professional help.
There are excellent resources available.
For more information about healthy relationships and teen dating violence, I recommend the following websites.
Questions or comments? Scroll down and Leave a Comment! I look forward to hearing from you.