Parents worry about a number of things when a teen daughter starts dating. Sometimes it can be difficult for parents to tell if their daughter is in an abusive relationship. Bad boyfriends don’t always look bad and abusers often make sure that abuse only happens when the couple is alone. Parents can empower daughters by being good role models about healthy relationships and by starting conversations at an early age, way before girls start dating.
Statistics on Teen Dating Violence
One in five teens who have been in a serious relationship say they have been hit, slapped, or pushed by a partner reports Teen Research Unlimited. More statistics from the Liz Claiborne sponsored study deliver the message that one in four teens say their boyfriend has tried to prevent them from spending time with friends or family.
How Teen Girls Form Attitudes About Relationships
Many different factors determine how teen girls view relationships and if girls will recognize a controlling or abusive relationship or realize that they have a bad boyfriend. Popular media is of some influence but even greater is what a girl sees in her home and her everyday life. Home is where girls learn life skills and relationship dynamics. Teens learn what they live.
Teens grow up watching other women, especially mothers and mother figures engage in relationships with men. When teen girls see mothers interacting in interdependent, healthy relationships, they often learn the unspoken message that love is respect. But if girls consistently see women make excuses for bad boyfriends/husbands or blame themselves, teens don’t see examples of assertiveness or associate assertive actions with male/female relationships. Being a healthy role model in the home is one of the best ways to educate teens about relationships.
Starting Conversations About Dating Violence
Talking to daughters isn’t always easy. Teens are in a normal developmental stage of breaking away from parents and showing their independence. Teen girls definitely won’t want to listen if parents talk down to them or simply threaten to harm a girl’s boyfriend if he abuses her. Educating girls about healthy relationships isn’t a one-time conversation. Ongoing discussions about dating violence are best started before a girl dates at all and are more effective if conducted on an ongoing basis.
Parents can use local and national media stories to bring up the subject of relationship abuse. Teens will feel more comfortable first talking about the unhealthy relationships of others. Parents can start conversations with open ended questions such as, “What do you think about . . . ?” and “How would you feel if . . . ?”
Watching a dating violence related television show or video together can be a great conversation starter. Celebrity stories about relationship abuse are sometimes highlighted in magazine articles. Parents can ask their teen daughter what she thinks of such articles. Parents will be better received by teens if they keep the conversation light and short rather than always taking a “let’s have a serious talk” approach.
Tips for Talking to Daughters about Dating Violence
- Parents should start talking early – before teen girls start dating.
- Instead of doing all of the talking, parents can focus on listening more than they talk.
- Rather than telling teens, parents can start discussions by asking questions to teens.
- It’s helpful for parents to share their hopes and dreams about their daughter with her.
- One of the best ways to build an open relationship with a teen is to let a daughter know that she doesn’t have to be perfect and that she can talk openly about her mistakes.
- Celebrity and media stories are great discussion starters.
- Parents can download free resources and brochures about educating teen girls about relationship abuse and bad boyfriends.
- Parents can e-mail their teen a link to one of the online quizzes about controlling boyfriends
Teaching teen girls about healthy relationship starts with role modeling by parents and continues with discussions about dating violence on a regular basis. It also helps if a parent's discipline style doesn't use intimidation techniques that teach daughters to continually be in a passive role. Parents can also educate themselves about the warning signs of emotional abuse.
Finding Safety: Boundaries for Teenagers: How to Recognize and Protect Yourself from Abuse
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