Once your teenage daughter starts dating, you may become hyper-vigilant to do everything you can to keep her safe and sound. Unfortunately, your goal may be more challenging than you think, thanks to a rising prevalence of teen dating violence. The Wake Forest Baptist Health website states that two in 10 teenage girls report physical or sexual abuse in a dating relationship. If your daughter is in a bad relationship, provide support to help her.
Symptoms of a Bad Relationship
A bad relationship isn’t just stress and unpleasantness. There can be love and happiness intermixed with the abuse. The mixture of positive and negative circumstances contributes to teen confusion. As you watch your daughter, look for symptoms that suggest abuse. Some symptoms include controlling behavior, excessive contacting and checking up, put-downs in front of others, threatening harm (to self or others) and blaming the girl for the abuse.
Defining a Healthy Relationship
Help your teen recognize some of the concerning patterns regarding the relationship. Contrast a negative relationship with a healthy relationship to enable your teenager to understand what makes a healthy relationship, advises the Teens Against Abuse website. A positive relationship does not involve controlling behaviors, fear, physical or emotional injury, or self-esteem problems. A healthy relationship involves respectful communication, trust and mutual support. Make sure your daughter understands that abuse does not only include physical violence -- abuse can also involve emotional or sexual violence and even the threat of violence.
Talk to your teen about how she’s feeling in the relationship. Ask your teen pertinent questions about what’s going on. You might ask if she feels loved and supported in the relationship. You might ask if she feels valued and trusted in the relationship. You might also ask if she feels comfortable and confident about communicating feelings and thoughts with her boyfriend. If your teenager does not want to talk, don’t press, warns the Teens Against Abuse website. Continue to be available for support and information and she may change her mind.
Avoid pushing your opinions and advice on your teen, as difficult as this will be. Instead, present options for her to consider. One option may be to seek and develop new areas of interest and activity apart from the relationship to create a pocket of space. Provide support for your daughter if she opts to do this -- the area might include family, church or a job. You might even get involved with your daughter to strengthen a connection between you at the same time as she’s getting some needed space. If your teen is interested, you might provide the telephone number for the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 866-331-9474.