Is your teenager a victim of dating violence?
Is your teenager being abused? While you probably answered that question with a confident “no,” it is important to know that approximately 20 percent of female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner (http://www.clotheslineproject.org/teendatingviolencefacts.pdf). So how can you know if your teenager is involved in an abusive relationship? Here are five basic things to look for when determining if you need to have a discussion with your child.
One of the ways abusers control their partners is to seclude them from those close to them. If your teen seems to have fewer friends and is attending fewer social events than before, this is a sign that your teen's partner may be solidifying control over your teen. Teens will choose to comply with the abusers restrictions out of fear or love.
- Loss of enthusiasm
Having a decreased interest in past activities is a common issue among teens dealing with abuse. Abuse can lead to anxiety, depression and other instabilities. When teens deal with these emotions, they begin to disconnect with what has made them happy. They withdraw further inward in order to deal with the heavy burden of abuse.
- Poor performance
Falling grades can be directly connected to lower self-confidence. Lowered self-esteem can be a result of demeaning words, behaviors and actions toward the victim. A decreased involvement in extracurricular activities is not uncommon for an abused teen. Your child may start performing poorly in sports or activities they previously excelled in.
- Clouded decision-making
While you could easily chalk this up to “being young” or “the teenage years,” it can be a serious sign of an unhealthy relationship. Later in the abuse cycle, after the happy stage has passed, teens can begin to feel desperate. People in desperate situations have a harder time making clear, positive decisions.
- Changes in daily habits
Is your teen eating less? Has your teen started sleeping significantly more or less? Changes can be anything from communication skills to an adjustment in physical appearance. Abuse can have long-term effects on a person’s daily life.
If this sounds like your child, you will want to work with your child on finding solutions and help. A majority of parents (54 percent) admit they’ve not spoken to their child about dating violence (http://www.clotheslineproject.org/teendatingviolencefacts.pdf). Setting safe dating boundaries is a good place to start. You can discuss who is allowed over at the house when you are gone. Decide an appropriate age to begin group dating and single dating. Be a good role model of what a healthy relationship looks like and communicate openly with your children about your expectations and goals for their future in dating.
There is help. If your child is in an abusive relationship, you can visit http://www.loveisrespect.org/for-yourself/contact-us and live chat with an expert.