When to Intervene in a Teen's Verbally Abusive Relationship

Watching your teenager fall in love can be a heart-warming experience. It can also turn into a nightmare if your child's partner is verbally abusive. Knowing how or when to intervene in a teenager's verbally abusive relationship can leave parents feeling puzzled, but it can also be a step that changes the direction of your child's life for the better.

Checking for an Abusive Relationship

Parents need to look for signs of emotional abuse before intervening in a teenager's relationship. During the teenage years, it's common for young couples to argue as they learn how to set boundaries and respect someone else's limits, according to the Boston Children's Hospital Center for Young Women's Health 4. But a teenager who constantly criticizes or puts down your child, argues with her frequently, blames her for his problems, or screams at her is behaving in a verbally abusive manner. Take note of the incidents you witness, including the specifics. You will need these when you intervene in the relationship 4.

When to Intervene

Occasionally, your teenager might have fights with his girlfriend that cross the line. But if his girlfriend is frequently verbally abusive, you should approach him as soon as you notice a pattern, according to Healthychildren.org. While you might want to intervene as soon as your teenager's partner says something abusive, this criticism of your son's girlfriend could lead him to become defensive. Arrange for time alone with him to discuss the problem, maybe saying, "I noticed that Jill screamed at you the other day when you mentioned working on a project with Lisa at school." Let him decide whether and when he is ready to talk.

When and How You Can Help

Your teenager might start opening up about the verbal abuse she has faced after you approach her. If so, keep moving forward with your intervention. Tell her that the verbal abuse has to end and, if it doesn't, encourage her to break up with her partner, according to Healthychildren.org. Arrange for your daughter to travel to and from work or school with someone, and to change her schedule at school or work as soon as possible. You might also want to notify your daughter's teachers, principal, employer or the police of the circumstances right away.

Additional Help

It is not uncommon for teenagers to repeatedly leave and go back to an abusive partner, according to KidsHealth, a child development site 3. While this can be frustrating, insulting your child's partner or coercing him into leaving his girlfriend will yield poor results. Instead, encourage her to seek a mental health expert right away. Family counselors or child therapists can help teens who continue to pursue an abusive partner. You can also contact a counselor at your child's school or your child's doctor for a referral to a professional who might be able to help.