Unfortunately, abuse in teenage relationships is far too common. And it’s not exclusive to teen girls; teen boys can also be victims of abusive behavior. It also doesn’t apply only to romantic relationships; teens can also find themselves in toxic friendships that can wear them down emotionally.
Adolescence is a transitional period leading up to adulthood, and with less life experience—and still developing brains—teens are less equipped to recognize and confront abusive relationships. Kids at this age can also be more secretive and less open with their parents about their relationships.
As parents, we want to protect them from all forms of abuse, whether physical, verbal, or emotional. Here’s how to safeguard your teen from abusive relationships:
Talk to your teen often.
Between school, homework, extracurricular activities, and social life, it may be challenging to find time to talk with your teen. However, it’s important in this phase of their life that you establish that they can come to you for anything, no matter how busy they are or you are. You don’t have to talk with them long, but you do need to talk to them regularly to understand the ups and downs of their lives at the moment. Establishing open and regular communication early in their life will make having a serious talk about the different forms of abuse in relationships easier.
Ensure they understand the different kinds of abuse.
To fully comprehend abuse in relationships, your teen first needs to know what qualifies as a healthy relationship; talk about what a positive, healthy relationship looks like—among peers, friends, and romantic partners. Also, make sure they recognize that physical violence is not the only type of abusive behavior that can take place in a relationship. While hitting, slapping, pushing, wrist-grabbing, and using force are forms of physical abuse that leave visible marks, verbal abuse can be just as painful and damaging.
Your teen should understand that verbal abuse can be subtle and doesn’t necessarily involve yelling or cursing. Verbal abuse may be demeaning speech or negative words intended to break a person down emotionally so the abuser can maintain the power in the relationship.
Look for the signs of abuse.
As mentioned, teens can be guarded about their private lives. Even kids who are extremely close to their parents will keep secrets to avoid disappointing them. As a parent, you must balance giving your teen space and a certain amount of independence with having access to note for signs of changing behavior, especially once they start dating.
Verbal and physical abuse in relationships can obliterate a person’s self-esteem, impacting their self-confidence and ability to practice self-love. Apart from looking for the physical signs of injury like bruises, cuts, and scratches, look for depression or withdrawal. Has your teen isolated themselves, or are they behaving differently? Has their appearance changed? Are they quick to make excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend? Do you suspect their mental health and well-being are suffering?
Talking to your teen often, helping them understand the different forms of abuse in relationships, and observing for the signs of abuse will help you safeguard your teen. It’s also crucial for you to know where to turn once you’re convinced your teen is the victim of abusive behavior. If you need someone to talk to about abusive relationships in teens, Communicare offers various services, including counseling, behavioral health programs, and teen health. We’re the people who care, and we’re here to help.