Keeping Your Kids Safe: How to Tell If Your Teen is in an Abusive Relationship
It can be nerve-wracking when your child enters teen years and begins to have romantic relationships. It is hard to imagine that they might end up in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. However, 1 in 10 teens who have been on a date have been physically abused. Many of the signs of an abusive relationship are subtle and can be difficult to detect. So, what are the signs, and how can you help your teen if you think he or she is being abused?
Changes in Self Esteem
Was your child always a very happy/positive person who is suddenly depressed or angry all of the time? While this is often something that happens to teens due to changes in their bodies and lives, it can also be a sign of abuse. Look out for extreme changes in personality and self-esteem, especially if they begin to affect your child’s relationships and schoolwork.
Many abusers seek to isolate the people they abuse. If your child has begun to cut off contact with you, their siblings, and their friends, and spends all of their time with their partner, it is very possible that they are being cut off by that partner. Isolation allows an abuser to control their victim.
Signs of Violence
The most obvious signs of violence are injuries. If your teen frequently comes home with a black eye, or bruises on other parts of their body, they may be in an abusive relationship. Oftentimes, they may tell you they were injured by something besides their partner. If injuries are frequent, and in similar places, your teen may be in an abusive relationship.
What Can You Do to Help?
Ask. Your child may not want to talk about abuse, but if you suspect something is wrong you need to talk to them. If they do talk to you, be willing to listen to them. Do not blame them for their problems. They are a victim. Their abuser is the one who has done something wrong. Help them create a plan to become safe. Talk to their teachers at school, and if necessary, the authorities. If they need someone to talk to, and they don’t feel comfortable talking to you, seek help from a licensed therapist.
Abusive relationships are a very serious issue, and the signs are not always obvious. As a parent, you need to be on the lookout, and if necessary, you need to step in to help.
- Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. A national effort to raise awareness and protect teens from violence.
- Violence Prevention. Intimate partner violence is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans.