6 Tips for Parents Talking About Dating Abuse

Parents who suspect their child is in an unhealthy relationship may not know how to help. Parents can begin discussing healthy relationships and signs of dating abuse with their children before they even begin dating. Here are six tips on how parents can navigate having conversations about dating violence with their children.

1. Educate yourself.

Learn warning signs of abusive behavior. You can give your child examples of different actions partners take in a healthy relationship, including having trust, being honest, and communicating with each other. Share a list of relationships in your child’s life that are healthy, and explain why they are considered to be so.

2. Listen.

Teens may be nervous or worried to share their experiences with their parents. They may be concerned that they will be in trouble with their parents and they won’t understand their situations. If your child opens up to you, listen without judgment. Explain to them that the abuse is not their fault and they should not feel ashamed. Your support is crucial for your child to feel comfortable ending an abusive relationship.

3. Understand the risks.

If your child is involved in an abusive relationship, it’s important to understand the dangers they may be facing. While a typical reaction may be to give an ultimatum to end the relationship, parents should first assess the unhealthy behaviors. If a child is engaged in a dangerous—and possibly life-threatening—situation, parents should take steps to stop the abuse from continuing. There are resources to guide parents and anyone concerned about a loved one experiencing abuse, including contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

4. Focus on the abusive behaviors.

Because your child may still have feelings for their partner when they talk to you, it is best to avoid talking badly about their partner and the relationship. Instead, discuss the specific unhealthy behaviors, such as jealousy, belittling, and manipulation. Your teen can then better understand on their own why they need to leave the situation without feeling like you don’t respect them.

5. Show your concern.

Point out the specific concerns you have about the abuse they are experiencing. Your child should understand that they deserve to be in a relationship where they are respected and treated like an equal.

6. Be supportive.

It isn’t easy for any victim to confront the abuse they are experiencing and share it with another person. As a parent, offer your support to help them open up. Create a space where your child can feel comfortable talking with you. Honor your child’s decision to seek help. Offer resources for additional support on how they can move forward with their experiences, understanding that you will be by their side as they begin their healing journey. 

Sources: Loveisrespect and One Love Foundation
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