Do you think that Emotional or Physical Abuse is possibly a factor in your teen or young adult’s dating relationships?
I’m going to guess that you answered “NO”. 81% of adults say that they don’t think that dating violence is an issue for teens.
But here’s the truth: The APA (or American Psychological Association) surveyed teens and young adults and
In fact, individuals aged 16-24 report 3 times the national average of dating violence compared to older adults. It’s also important to note that many times a person may be the victim AND the perpetrator. Unhealthy relationships often create the “perfect storm” of volatility, where one person is the kindling and the other person the flame. In these cases, combustion is often inevitable.
Relationship violence is something that victims and perpetrators often go to extreme lengths to hide. This is why keeping open lines of communication with your teen is so important. Here is how to talk about healthy relationships, red flags and what to do if your teen is in that 36-41%.
The Essentials In Every Healthy Relationship:
A healthy relationship follows the acronym “PEACE.” PEACE stands for Patience, Empathy, Acceptance, Caring, & Equality.
Talk with and model these elements in your own romantic relationships as well as in your relationship with your teen. When you walk the walk along with talking the talk, your teen is much more likely to listen and follow suit.
It is also essential that you discuss potential red flags in relationships. The key is to do this well before issues develop with your teen’s personal relationships. Using examples from tv and pop culture can give your teen enough emotional distance to be able to recognize unhealthy patterns and relationship dynamics.
Red Flags To Watch For
1) The need for control on the part of the dating partner: t
2) Changes in your teen’s demeanor: becoming quiet or deferential, increased signs of depression or anxiety, extreme concern with how their boyfriend or girlfriend is going to respond to something, defensiveness about the relationship despite concerns from friends or family – are important signals to be aware of.
3) Smaller instances of emotional or physical violence: Passive aggressive comments or intentional embarrassment in front of others. Pushes, slaps, or forms of intimidation. Things that your teen may want to rationalize or brush off, could be evidence that a larger issue is at play.
If You Have Concerns, What Should You Do?
Addressing unhealthy relationship concerns can be tricky for parents (and concerned friends of a person in the relationship). Forbidding contact may push the relationship into further secrecy and drive it underground.
However, if you are fearful for your child’s safety – If physical violence is happening in the relationship – you need to step in and take action. Contact the appropriate authorities, communicate with the school and make sure that your teen is protected.
Are You Concerned About A Budding Relationship
1) Listen and hear without judgment: Validate your teen’s feelings, but ALSO educate them about what a healthy relationship looks like.
2) Ask open-ended questions: Start questions with “I wonder” or “What do your other friends’ relationships look like?” They key here is to give your teen space to explore their thoughts and hopefully arrive at healthy conclusions on their own.
3) Create distance: You can make it harder for your teen to be with the unhealthy partner by having them occupied doing other things. Keep them involved in activities and healthy outlets within their support network. Take phones away at night to limit potentially negative interactions. And create “blackout” zones for digital distance.
4) Find support: There are local organizations in Phoenix that provide support and education to teens and parents. Kaity’s Way is one of these groups: They hold workshops for teen, parents
If your teen finds him or herself repeating unhealthy relationship patterns or is struggling to end a relationship, consider reaching out to a local therapist who provides individual or group therapy and understands teen issues. This can help them develop self confidence, establish healthy boundaries, incorporate effective communication skills, and address any trauma that may be present from instances in their past.
Above all, keep the channels of communication open with your teen. You are their first “mirrors,” reflecting their value and worth. Support them through their challenges, protect them with your experience, and celebrate in their growth and successes.