Dating Smarts for Parents – When Should Your Teen End It? Signs to Know It’s Time to Go.
Talking about dating violence
One in three teens will experience violence in their dating relationships so it’s important to share the warning signs with your teen. You probably don’t want to think about dating violence or sexual abuse and your teen, however the more they know the safer they are.
Start by describing that dating violence can be confusing – your teen may be charmed by their partner. Warning signs are controlling behavior and blaming others for problems. It can be physical or verbal and it often shows up as a cycle. They promise never to do it again, yet it reoccurs. The victim often becomes afraid of their partner and unsure of themselves. Tell your teen if this happens to talk to someone trustworthy or call a hotline to get support. Dating violence can happen regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
You’ve probably shared with your teen that communication is key in relationships. Add that good partners are able talk about sexual limits, respect boundaries, and get consent every time they engage in a sexual activity. Tell your teen if their partner says “no,” or does not respond, to respect them and stop. If their partner does something they don’t like, your teen should ask them to stop and tell them the effect the behavior has. If the behavior doesn’t stop, your teen may need to take a break or leave the relationship. Share with your teen that it’s common to think they will be with whomever they are dating forever, however most teen relationships aren’t long-term. Making a Pros and Cons list can help them decide, and confide in a trustworthy friend or adult who can help them stick to their decision.
Sometimes parents freak out about kids fooling around – your teen can be traumatized by a freak out, but the behavior may not be abuse. Often, kids will play games with other kids (Spin-the-Bottle, Truth or Dare). This is normal behavior. Kids learn about their sexual selves through play and curiosity. Only your teen can decide for themselves – ask them about it. If they have bad feelings about an incident (force or manipulation), it could be sexual abuse.
Start talking with your teen about sexual abuse by sharing that victims are predominately abused by someone they know and it can be confusing. The victim feels special and these good feelings are hard to separate from the bad. Sexual abuse is pressuring or tricking another person into sexual activity for one’s own pleasure. It includes sexual touching, exhibitionism, pornography, and voyeurism. Drugs and alcohol are sometimes used to reduce resistance. Two important things to know: it’s absolutely not the victim’s fault, and people can and do recover. The first step is to tell someone, and if your teen can’t, do it for the next kid this person will target.
Knowing what a healthy relationship looks like (and doesn’t) will help your teen make good decisions about their relationships and get help if they need it.