Everyone remembers their first teenage romance; however, that type of romance is beginning to change. Children are starting to establish sexual relationships
at a younger age and many relationships are starting to become abusive. If your daughter or son were in an abusive relationship would you be able to notice the signs or even know how to handle the situation? There are many tips and signs to look for in an abusive relationship.
Even if you don’t suspect that your child’s relationship with another is abusive, it is still a good idea to watch for the potential warning signs. Many parents aren’t aware that abusers can seem like perfect and normal boyfriends. Another mistake that parents make is thinking that their child will inform them if they are in danger. Many teenagers are too embarrassed to admit that they have been abused or may not even be sure if they have been. Abuse is defended as a pattern of violent behavior. Parents and teens need to realize that physical, sexual and verbal abuse are all violent behavior. Sometimes your daughter may justify her boyfriends action by claiming he never hit her, but that doesn’t mean another form of abuse hasn’t occurred.
The most obvious signs that your daughter may be in an abusive relationship is that she may have unexplained bruises or injuries. Another sign is if you see your child’s partner losing his temper or being abusive to animals or other objects. Although those two signs are easy to see, there are a few warning signs that may be a little harder to notice. If you child becomes isolated from friends or family and stops doing activities that she once used to enjoy, you should approach her. Some boyfriends will even go as far constantly checking up on their girlfriends and may even supply them with a cell phone or a pager. If this actually occurs a red flag should be raised in your mind. High school relationships do not necessarily have to involve a twenty-four hour watch and if this happens, that is what your her boyfriend is trying to do. Many girlfriends will try and make excuses for their boyfriends or brush off the incidents like nothing serious happened. If you daughter does this, don’t give up, keep on trying to get her to open up to you.
Unless you have experienced abuse yourself, it is often hard to understand why someone would want to say in an abusive relationship. If this abusive relationship is the first relationship that your daughter has ever had, she might think that the situation is how it is supposed to be. Many teens do not have a healthy relationship to compare the abusive one to. In high school a couple often intertwines their friends; for example, her friends become friends with him and visa versa. Many teenagers feel that high school is all about popularity and social status. They may feel that if they end their relationship they will become less popular or lose all of their friends.
The most common reason why teenagers decide to stay in an abusive relationship is because of fear. Some girls may think that if their boyfriend can harm them when they are together, what is he capable of doing when they are apart. Many abusers often know how to play on the guilt of their victims. Most abusers will claim that they cannot survive without the victim and some will even threaten suicide. In those types of situations, the victim feels obligated to stay and does not want to be responsible for the possible death or injury of another human being.
If you suspect that your son or daughter is in an abusive relationship you should have a sit-down conversation with them. It is important that you be prepared for the worst. Your child may refuse to talk to you, try and spark an argument, or confirm your worst fear. When you finally decide to have the talk with your child, it is important that you do it alone. Having other people present may make your child feel upset or embarrassed. Deciding how to initiate this type of conversation is something that most parents are unsure on how to handle. The last thing that a parent should do is flat out ask their child if they are being abused, your child may feel insulted or completely shutdown from you.
One of the reasons why victims choose to stay with their abusers is because they have had their self-esteem significantly ruined. A good way to start a conversation would be to compliment your child on their outfit or new hairstyle. Sometimes this can actually lead into the question that you are afraid to ask. If you child says that her boyfriend doesn’t like her outfit and thinks she shouldn’t wear it anymore, play off of that. Ask your daughter why he doesn’t like the outfit and if he is always making decisions like that for her. If she says yes or sometimes it may be a good idea to explain to her how a relationship should work and how controlling behavior is not included in that.
If your son or daughter refuses to answer your questions or talk about the situation, that may also be a sign that abuse is occurring. Do not push your child to extremes, if you do then you may just upset them even more. If your talk was unsuccessful it may be a good idea stop the conversation and try again the next day, but until then monitor your child’s behavior with her partner. If worst comes to worse and your child refuses to admit the abuse, you could take them to a domestic violence counselor to talk or even just to get brochures. Picking up the brochures yourself and leaving them on your daughter or son’s bed to read, whenever they are ready, may make a world of difference in their attitude about the situation.
If you daughter or son isn’t already involved in a romantic relationship, it may be a good idea to discuss relationship abuse with them ahead of time. Let your children know that abuse usually starts out with name calling or other insults and then may escalate. As a side note, I referred to most of the abusers as males and the victims as females. Most times the roles are as described; however, there are times when the female in the relationship is the abuser. No matter what side your teenager is on, be a parent and provide the support that they need.