Romantic and sexual feelings develop during the teen years. Teenagers are starting to date and experiment with different types of relationships. It is fun and exciting to meet someone new, and sad and difficult to break up.

As a parent, you can help your teenager make good decisions about dating. With guidance and support, teens can learn about healthy relationships and get the strength and courage needed to leave those that are not.

There is no place for verbal or physical abuse in a healthy and respectful relationship.

Myths and Facts

MYTH : “Teen dating violence is just another way of saying rape.”

FACT : Abuse comes in many forms. Besides sexual violence, it also includes:

MYTH: “Oh, it's not that common.”

FACTS:

MYTH: “It only happens to kids from bad homes.”

FACT:

Dating violence is not limited to families with a history of violence. It happens to teens from families of all cultures, income levels, and educational backgrounds.

MYTH: “It can't happen to my child.”

FACTS:

Why Teens are Silent

There are many reasons why teens don't tell their parents or friends about the violence they are experiencing. They may:

Warning Signs of Abuse

Some of the following may be just part of being a teenager. But, when these changes happen suddenly or without explanation, there is cause for concern.

School

  • Failing grades

  • Dropping out of school or school activities

Attitude/mood

  • Difficulty making decisions

  • Changes in personality, becoming anxious or depressed

  • Acting out or being secretive

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Having “crying jags” or getting “hysterical”

  • Constantly thinking about dating partner

Physical appearance

  • Bruises, scratches, or other injuries

  • Sudden changes in clothes or make-up

Activities

  • Avoiding friends or changing peer groups

  • Giving up activities, interests, or family time that previously had been important

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits

  • Using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

Pregnancy

  • Some teenagers believe that having a baby will help make things better.

  • Some girls are forced to have sex.

Abusive Behavior

It is important for you to recognize signs of an abusive relationship.

Your child needs help in either case—victim or abuser

Tips for Parents

Talk about healthy dating relationships and possible problems.

It is never too early or too late to teach about respect. Respect for self and others is important in any relationship.

If you think your teenager already may be involved with an abusive partner:

  • Give your teen a chance to talk. Listen quietly to the whole story.

  • Tell your child that you are there to help, not to judge.

  • If your teen does not want to talk with you, help find another trusted person for your child to talk with.

  • Focus on your child's safety and self-esteem. Point out how unhappy your teenager seems to be while with this person and the possibility of danger or harm. Do not “put down” the abusive partner.

  • Let your child know that abuse always gets worse. What may start as minor verbal or physical abuse is very likely to get worse if not stopped immediately.

If your teenager tries to break up with an abusive partner:

  • Advise that the breakup be definite and final.

  • Develop a safety plan with your teen ahead of time.

  • Support your teenager's decision and be ready to help.

  • Make sure your teen takes all necessary safety measures.

    • Avoid walking or riding alone, and always travel with another friend.

    • Consider changing class schedules.

    • Get help from the guidance counselor, school principal, or if necessary, the police.

What you can say

It is important for your teen to talk about dating violence, either with you or with another trusted adult. Many people who have been victims of dating violence have been able to change their lives after they began talking with others.

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Teen Dating Violence: Tips for Parents

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