As parents, we all hope that our children will someday learn what love is. We hope that he or she will experience the butterflies, the romance and all of the hopes and dreams that accompany finding your first love. Unfortunately, many teens today have far more to deal with than just Friday night movies and first kisses. Many are involved in unhealthy and abusive relationships and have no idea how to escape them. If you suspect that something might be going wrong in your teen’s relationship, look for these warning signs as further clarification.
Verbal abuse… If you are noticing that your teen is becoming more and more self conscious, there could be some verbal abuse going on. Anything from put downs and yelling to excessive texting, emailing or using other forms of social media to make someone feel bad about themselves could be seen as verbal abuse. Talk to your teen and find out what sort of things their significant other might be saying to them and about them.
Controlling… While everyone loves to hear their significant other’s opinion on certain matters, some teens take it above and beyond this. Trying to dictate the way your child dresses, speaks or the friends he or she keeps is a form of control. If your child mentions that their significant other is always checking their phone and email or shows up to places where your child is with friends or family, you can bet your teen’s every move is being monitored by this person.
Sexual abuse… Just because your teen is sexually active does not necessarily mean that they want to be. Many teens use sex as another form of control. It is also not uncommon for many male teens to physically force themselves onto a female teen and then claim that because they are dating it is not rape. Sexting is another form of sexual abuse, and many teens will force their significant other to either text photos of themselves naked or doing inappropriate acts or they will force the teen to allow them to take the photos. If your teen has expressed an interest in becoming sexually active or has informed you that they already are, make sure they know the difference between making love and being abused. And if your teen has a cell phone, make sure you are randomly checking it for inappropriate photos and texts.
Physical abuse… The percentage of teens being physically abused by a partner continues to rise in the United States. This abuse can range from a slap or pushing, to things like pinching, punching or even restraining. Often times, teens feel at fault for this abuse and will attempt to hide bruises or scars instead of reporting the incident. If you begin to notice marks on your child that just don’t seem quite right, there is a very good chance your child is in an abusive relationship.
If you think that an unhealthy or abusive relationship couldn’t possibly happen to your child, you’re wrong. According to the CDC, one in 11 adolescents report physical violence and one in 5 adolescents report emotional abuse. According to data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS), one in eight females and one in 16 males reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse in their lifetime, while nine percent of all adolescents report having been raped.
While it’s easier to simply look away and hope for the best, protecting your child regardless of his or her age is still your job. Look for the warning signs. Is your child becoming withdrawn, experiencing weight loss or weight gain? Is your child beginning to fail in school or simply choosing to spend all of their time with only their significant other, ignoring all friends and prior activities? Does your child seem on edge or even frightened? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, than your child may be in an unhealthy relationship. Talk to your child, explain to them the difference between being loved and being possessed and find out what’s really going on. Remember, the lessons they learn as teens are the ones they use to build their adult lives with; make sure they’re good ones.