February was Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Teen Dating Violence impacts millions of teens in the United States every year. According to the CDC, one in 11 female teens and one in 15 male teens reported experiencing physical dating violence in the past year. Individuals who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to experience dating violence. Dating violence is not just physical harm. Stalking, sexual and psychological aggression are all acts of violence which can take place in person or online.
As a parent or caregiver, it is important to be able to detect the signs of dating violence and to have an open and honest conversation with your teen. Talking to your children about healthy relationships can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but it is essential. Here are some tips and tools to use to be able to talk with your teen about the possibility of teen dating violence:
- Make it clear to your child that being in a relationship can feel thrilling, but it should never feel dangerous. Physical harm of any kind is not love, no matter what words are attached to it.
- A partner should never force your teen to participate in sexual activities they are not comfortable with, nor engage in sex without their consent.
- Extreme jealousy and insecurity, an inability to control one’s temper and extreme moods swings are common characteristics of perpetrators of dating violence. Perpetrators of dating violence attempt to control their partner’s life and isolate them from family and friends. If a partner is trying to police where your child is going, who they are seeing, and what they are talking about, this is a sign of dating violence.
- Though COVID-19 may have disrupted some of the more physical manifestations of teen dating violence, violent behavior can manifest itself online, too. With teens spending more time online than ever before, it can be difficult as a parent to decipher what is normal and what is harmful technological engagement. Make sure your child knows that threats or blackmail, false accusations, constant and disruptive calls and texts, and forcing someone to send inappropriate photos or constant updates on their whereabouts are all unhealthy behaviors. If a partner asks your child to share their passwords or logs into your child’s email, phone, or social media without their consent, this is also a red flag.
- Finally, as parents and caregivers, it is important to reflect on one’s own habits and behaviors in relationships, and think about how these habits might be interpreted by our children. Learning how to behave in a relationship begins at home. Be sure your child knows what a relationship should be: mutual respect, encouragement, trust, good humor. Violence is simply not an option.