Do you suspect your teen is in an abusive dating relationship? Teens in abusive relationships feel that having a boyfriend or girlfriend proves their own worth. They may feel so strongly about having a relationship that a bad relationship is better than no relationship at all. Teens are also highly susceptible to a general and common belief that not having a romantic relationship means there is something wrong mentally, emotionally or physically. Boys and girls can share these same feelings. It is not only girls at risk.
Positive role models in healthy relationships are important for teens to learn the necessary skills in dating relationships.Without positive role models teens may not realize their behaviors in dating relationships are abusive or that they are in an abusive dating relationship. If mom endured pain with dad, this type of scenario can be passed onto teens in their relationships.
If dad hit, slapped or yelled at mom, then Charlie will be more likely to slap, hit yell or demean his girlfriend, Suzy. The same goes the other way around, if mom makes all the decisions, and rules the roost so to speak, or decides she can go where she pleases while dad sits home and babysits, then Suzy is more likely to behave much the same in her relationships. Abuse wears many hats and appears in many different faces. Abuse can be subtle or very obvious resulting in broken bones, bruises and even death.
When talking to teens, focus on what healthy relationships are. Partners should respect each other’s opinions, decisions and personal privacy. When decisions and choices are to be made both partners should be able to express feelings, desires and wants. It is never healthy for one person to have a great amount of control over another person. Each person needs space for personal and separate identities. No one should have to give up their individuality to be part of a couple. Each partner needs separate time and space to pursue independent activities and engage in other friendships. Healthy relationships have strong foundations of trust and honesty.
Discuss with your teen the reality that a true caring partner is concerned about the well-being of the other partner and wants what is best for that person. A caring partner is able to share joy about the success of the other partner instead of expressing jealousy. A true caring partner will be of support in times of trouble. Define healthy relationships to your teens as being a place where both partners feel safe emotionally and physically.
If you observe teens exhibiting behavior other than mutual respect in dating relationships give them the opportunity to talk about appropriate behavior toward significant others. Any indication of situations escalating into abuse or dating violence should quickly be reported to agencies that can help.
Review some of the tips below to help you build a strong and trusting relationship with teens:
- Always respect your teen. Avoid ridicule or humiliation. If you have more than one teen, avoid playing favorites between them. If you want cooperation, never allow a teen to perceive you do not like him or her.
- It is rude to talk about other people, whether it is family members, a friend, enemies or what have you. Be a role model in showing respect to other adults and everyone.
- In dealing with teens, be sure roles are well established and that it is clear you are the adult.
- Don’t pretend to be a teen yourself and just hanging out with other teens. Teens will see right through a pretense. They respect adults who act like adults, and they actually need this more from an adult than one who tries to be just one of the gang.
- If you tell a teen you will do something, by all means keep your word. They in turn will learn to keep their word with you and others. This is setting an example of “strong character.” Teens need to know they can depend on you in whatever circumstances they face.
- Be patient when trying to build a trusting relationship with a teen. Allow them to bond with you at their own pace.
- Take time to genuinely listen to a teen’s concerns and dreams. Develop skills that will help teens to solve their own problems and avoid telling what you think they should do in any given situation.
Let your teen know you believe in him or her and in their own personal abilities. They will learn to believe in themselves and develop a strong self confidence within themselves.