While we often work hard to protect our children from predators, we may forget that fear of violence does not stop when they turn 18. It also rarely comes from the places we expect. In the United States alone, nearly 20 people per minute become victims of some form of domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence or IPV. Many of them are even still teenagers when they first experience it! This subcategory is called Teen Dating Violence, or TDV. Although it is impossible to predict or control who your child will eventually date, and if or when abuse will occur, there are some important lessons you can teach them to help them recognize domestic violence in their own or their friends’ relationships.
Teach them what healthy, respectful relationships look like
This one may seem counter-intuitive. After all, you are trying to teach them to recognize violence, right? Why start with teaching them to recognize respect? Simply put, this allows them to recognize when respect is or is not present, making it easier for them to notice unhealthy relationship behaviors early on. There are organizations in some states dedicated to teaching teens about respect in relationships to prevent abuse. If one is in your area, consider recommending it to teens in your community. They may also have parent resources for you. Make sure your child knows that they and their boundaries deserve to be respected in all relationships.
Talk to your child regularly about how they feel about their relationships
Take the time to invest in important conversations with your child about teen dating violence. Ask them open-ended questions like “how are things going?” or “what are your friends’ relationships like?” to gauge what the romantic relationships they witness are like, and what they think of them. This is a great opportunity to give your child the chance to come to you with anything worrying them and provide feedback on any unhealthy behaviors you may see in some of the relationships discussed.
Educate yourself and them on the early warning signs of Teen Dating Violence
Teen Dating Violence does not usually come out of nowhere, and there are some warning signs that you can look for in your teen, their friends, and their partners. Unexplained injuries may seem like an obvious warning sign, but be wary of “I don’t know” explanations of injuries. Previous animal abuse in your teen’s partner is a big red flag. If your child is dropping out of activities they once loved to appease their partner, that’s a red flag. Another early warning sign is if your teen’s partner is obsessive about checking in with them, even when they are busy. Learn the signs, watch carefully, and don’t be afraid to talk to your teen about your concerns.
Now, you can start preparing to educate your teen on what teen dating violence looks like. Take the time now to help prevent future abuse.