Talk to Your Teens About Dating Violence

February is a romantic time of year. It’s American Heart Month, and hearts are, of course, the most recognizable symbol of love. February also has the most amorous holiday of the year in Valentine’s Day. But while love is in the air, there’s a very real issue that deserves attention. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Talk to your teens about love, respect, and dating violence.

What is dating violence?

Dating violence is abuse between two people in a close relationship. It’s not just physical abuse, however. The abuse may be verbal, digital, emotional, or sexual as well. Dating violence can have immediate and long term effects on a person’s health.

People may think of dating violence among teens as a rare thing. Teen dating violence is quite common, however. One out of three American teens experiences some type of abuse in a relationship.

It’s important to realize that this type of abuse can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.

It’s not always easy to identify dating violence, especially for those involved in the relationship.

Signs of dating violence

While it can be difficult to identify dating violence, there are some signs that might indicate your child is in an abusive relationship.

  • They have frequent bruises or injuries.
  • His/her partner shows extreme jealousy or possessiveness.
  • His/her partner is abusive towards other people.
  • You notice radical changes in behavior.
  • Your child alienates friends or family.
  • They have increased depression or anxiety.

Here are a few behaviors that can help someone identify whether they are involved in an abusive relationship.

  • Your partner checks your phone, email, or social media without permission.
  • Your partner threatens you, physically or otherwise.
  • They force you to have sex.
  • Your partner puts you down regularly.
  • They make you feel scared or unsafe.
  • Your partner physically hurts you.
  • They often tell you what to do.

How to help prevent dating violence

Stop dating violence before it starts. Teaching your children about healthy and respectful relationships and maintaining good communication with your children are key.

Parents may feel uneasy about talking about dating violence with their children. It can be an uncomfortable talk for both parents and teens. It’s not easy to talk to your kids about sex or abuse. That shouldn’t discourage parents, however. Having this type of conversation can help prevent abuse, protect teens from violence, and help children grow up to make healthy and good decisions as they get older.

Victims of dating violence don’t always seek help. They may feel embarrassed, they might be in denial of the abuse, or they might not even recognize that they’re in an abusive relationship. It’s important to show your teen that you’re coming from a place of love and support.

Here is some useful advice on opening a dialogue with your kids about sex from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Here is another great resource for helping your teen who is in an abusive relationship.