You know you have hit a milestone in parenthood when your daughter or son starts to show an interest in dating. As a parent this can be a tough time. While teens certainly need more independence as they begin dating, giving them guidelines is also vitally important to their growth, development, and safety.
Unfortunately, teens – just like adults – can end up in unhealthy relationships. The facts about physical and emotional abuse in dating relationships are alarming. The good news is, if teens learn the importance of respecting themselves and others at a young age, they are more likely to give respect in return.
Get The Facts – Dating Abuse Statistics Teen dating abuse is a HUGE issue. It is a problem that touches the lives of teens from all walks of life – black and white, rich and poor, big-city and country.
• About one in four teens reports verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse each year. • About one in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. • About 72% of students in 8th and 9th grade report “dating”. By the time they are in high school, 54% of students report dating violence among their peers. • One in three teens reports knowing a friend or peer DATING from page 43 who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked, or otherwise physically hurt by his or her partner. • 80% of teens regard verbal abuse as a serious issue for their age group.
What is a Healthy Relationship? Any relationship that your teen has will affect their relationships later in life. The lessons they learn about respect, healthy versus unhealthy relationships, and what’s right or wrong will carry over into future relationships. So it’s important for teens to recognize what a healthy relationship is. Elements of a healthy relationship include:
• Mutual respect for self and others • Trust • Compromise • Individuality • Good communication • Anger control • Problem solving • Fighting fair • Understanding • Self-confidence
Encourage Your Teen to Choose Respect Encouraging your teen to choose respect begins at home: • Involve your teen in setting rules for appropriate behavior at home. • Talk with your teen about violence seen on television, in video games, and possibly in the neighborhood. Help your teen understand the consequences of violence. • Teach your teen respectful, nonviolent ways to solve problems. Praise your teen when he/she follows through. • Help your teen find ways to show anger that do not involve verbally or physically hurting others. • When you get angry, use it as an opportunity to model appropriate responses and talk about it with your teen. • Talk with your teen about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look and feel like. •?Help your teen understand the value of accepting individual differences. • Keep the lines of communication open, even though it is tough. Encourage your teen to always let you know where and with whom he/she will be. Get to know your teen’s friends. • Talk with the parents of your teen’s friends. Discuss how you can form a team to ensure your teens’ safety.
Encourage Your Teen To Choose Friends Wisely Preventing dating abuse begins with teaching your teen DATING from page 44 ways to develop healthy, respectful relationships with others. Friends can influence your teen’s values and actions – including how to behave and what to think about dating.
If teens surround themselves with friends that respect others, they, too, will likely choose to be respectful. Encourage your teen to be careful about the friends whom he/she chooses – in the neighborhood, at school, and online. Go over the qualities that your teen should seek in a friend such as honesty, trustworthiness, and kindness and why these are important to have in healthy, respectful relationships. Help your teen choose respect by talking about the need for cooperation and the importance of respecting others’ rights.
Teach Your Teen Refusal Skills Sometimes your teen may face pressure to do something in a relationship that makes him/her feel uncomfortable. Teaching teens how to say “no” to dangerous or uncomfortable situations will help them gain confidence and stay true to their values.
Sometimes your teen needs help knowing what to say. Try role playing with your teen about different situations he/she may encounter and simply ask, “What is your plan of action if you are faced with a situation?” Offer your teen some lines they can use such as: “No thanks. That’s not me” or “I don’t feel comfortable with that, and I expect you to respect my feelings”. The bottom line is to encourage your teen to stick up for himself/herself with confidence. If all else fails, encourage your teen to walk away from the person or situation if possible.
Set Rules For Dating When it comes to your teen and dating, it is important for parents to set clear, sensible ground rules that are age appropriate. Carry out these rules every time.
Before dating: • Set an age when your teen can date and be clear about it. • Set up guidelines for good date behavior. • Make your family rules clear (e.g. no alcohol or drug use on any date)
When your teen is ready to date: • Dates must be introduced to you. • Remind your teen that dates cannot be invited into the house unless a parent is at home. •?Dates are not allowed in a room in the house with the door closed. • Encourage supervised group activities or double dates. • Set up and enforce curfew rules.
What If Your Child Is Experiencing Dating Abuse? If you teen tells you that he/she has been abused, or if you suspect dating abuse, you will experience a variety of emotions. Stay calm as your reaction will affect how your teen responds to the situation. Create a safe environment for communication and reassure your teen that you will not assign blame. Allow your teen to express what is going on. Remind your teen that you care and thank him/her for opening up. Researching community resources such as hotlines and counselors who are available to help your teen and the rest of the family deal with the situation can be helpful. Do not allow any further contact between your teen and the dating partner.
Parents are the key to prevention of dating abuse. Helping your teen date safely with respect for both self and others will lead to building healthy, happy, and respectful relationships for a lifetime.
To learn more visit www.chooserespect.org
Source: Choose Respect. Give It. Get It. - an initiative to help adolescents form healthy relationships to prevent dating abuse before it starts.
Forbes is the Business and Community Liaison at Cassadaga Job Corps Academy. She has an AAS in Nursing from Jamestown Community College and a BS in Human Services and Community with a concentration in women and family issues from SUNY Empire State College. She lives in Jamestown and is the mother of an adult son and grandmother of three.
For more information about CJCA, contact Janet Forbes at (716) 595-4237, email Forbes.Janet@jobcorps.org. or visit www.jobcorps.gov.