Many changes take place during a person’s teenage years. In addition to the physical manifestations of puberty, which bring hormonal shifts and heightened sexual awareness, emotional and psychological changes can occur. This often is a time when social circles develop, and also when many teens begin to date.
Teenage dating can be both exciting and tumultuous. Teens may be so anxious to feel accepted and loved that they overlook some of the warning signs of a bad relationship. In such instances, teens may compromise their own safety in an effort to keep relationships alive.
To ensure teens stay safe while dating, parents must speak to their children about violence, particularly as it pertains to dating. Violence includes physical abuse and more. Sexual assault, psychological and emotional violence or even stalking also must be discussed with teens. Parents should emphasize that healthy relationships are built on honesty, trust, equality, and compromise.
Teen dating violence may be more common than parents know. Youth.gov says a national survey of teens in the United States found that 10 percent of them had been the victims of physical dating violence in the past year, and approximately 20 percent of adolescents reported psychological or verbal abuse within the previous year.
Friends and family close to teens who are of dating age can take steps to recognize and thwart teen dating violence.
• Use respectful language that does not promote stereotypes or sexism and is unlikely to be perceived as condescending by teens.
• Learn the warning signs of abuse. These can include a drop in grades; disinterest in previous hobbies or activities; physical bruises; symptoms of depression or anxiety; and other changes in behavior.
• Keep an open dialogue with teens who are dating to ensure that the relationship is healthy and safe.
• Reduce risk factors that can increase the liklihood of someone being subjected to violence in a relationship. Exposure to stressful life events, coming from disadvantaged homes, participation in risky behaviors, participating in peer violence, and being exposed to harsh parenting all increase the risk that teens will be subjected to relationship-related violence.
• Lessen the stigma for those who may have experienced violence coming forward by openly communicating and supporting others.
• Show respect to others and be proud and respectful of who you are. Be a positive role model in all you do.
Teen dating violence is a problem that requires attention and a voice so that it can be reduced.