Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I talk to my teen about dating violence?
- How to get the conversation started:
Finding the right moment to talk with your teen may seem daunting. Find a quiet place. Take your teen for a drive or to a quiet café with no distractions. You obviously want good results.
Remember this conversation have two primary goals.
1. You want to have a conversation which reinforces your teen that you are a real resource that they are safe going to. This means you want your child to know you will act to help them and will be a non-judgmental listener.
2. You want your teen to understand that there are realistic strategies for safety and dealing with the situation.
A good way to begin is by simply asking, “How’s it going?” Ease into this conversation so your teen won’t feel like they're on the spot. Acknowledge their answer and feelings. Depending on their mood, the next step may be asking, “What are your friends’ dating relationships like?” What’s the difference between “dating” and “committed” relationships? How long do the couples you know stay together? Do they make any kind of commitment to each other? Are there certain things girls want that boys don’t? Are there certain things that boys want that girls don’t? These questions may give you insight into how your teen views relationships. You may find stereotypical themes in your teen’s view of relationships or you may find your teen thinks mutual respect is key in any relationship. You will only find out by asking.
You may want to ask your teen if they have ever seen any abusive behavior between two people who are going out. Offer a scenario. “A boy sees his girlfriend talking to another guy, so he pulls her by the arm and yanks her away.” Would you call this violent? What does your son think about this behavior? Would you be shocked if your daughter said it was “just what guys do” and “no big deal”?
Tips for parents:
• Start the conversation. It is not easy to talk about such a painful topic. Imagine how hard it must be for your child to raise the issue -- especially if she is a victim of dating violence. Ask about your teen's relationships by showing concern rather than judgment, so your child does not feel threatened.
• Talk with your kids on their level. Teens don't always get it when you speak to them in abstract terms. Honesty discuss dating and dating violence, using examples such as public figures, book, movie or television characters, or people they know. Use both positive and negative examples.
• Talk often. This will help establish clear channels of communication that confirms your interest in your teen's life. Don't be afraid to ask questions and be honest when responding to your child's questions.
• Be available. Let your teen know that you are always available to talk with her and that nothing is more important to you than her well being. Your child will never open up about such a difficult topic if she feels that you don't have the time to talk about it.
• Give your undivided attention. Your attention should be completely focused on your child and what she has to say. Don't be distracted or allow anything to interrupt your time together. Turn off the television, allow the voice mail to pick up any incoming calls and sit down with your child, one-to-one in a relaxed environment.
• Don't be upset. Try not to get upset if your child is more comfortable talking with another trusted adult, such as a relative, teacher, coach, neighbor or religious leader. It is important that they know you are OK with them talking to another adult. Remember, the important thing is that they are turning to someone for advice.
• Don’t be afraid to let him or her know that you are concerned for their safety. Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse. Tell him or her you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help them recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.
• Acknowledge that he or she is in a very difficult and scary situation. Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure him or her that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there.
Be supportive. Listen to your friend or family member. Remember that it may be difficult for him or her to talk about the abuse. Let him or her know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.
• Be non-judgmental. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. He or she may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize his or her decisions or try to guilt them. He or she will need your support even more during those times.
• Encourage him or her to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.
If he or she ends the relationship, continue to be supportive of them. Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. He or she will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Help him or her to develop a safety plan.
• Encourage him or her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Offer to go with him or her to talk to family and friends. If he or she has to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.
• Remember that you cannot “rescue” him or her. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person getting hurt has to be the one to decide that they want to do something about it. It’s important for you to support him or her and help them find a way to safety and peace.
What You Can Say to Your Teen
• “I care about what happens to you. I love you and I want to help.”
• “If you feel afraid, it may be abuse. Sometimes people behave in ways that are scary and make you feel threatened -- even without using physical violence. Pay attention to your gut feelings.”
• “The abuse is not your fault. You are not to blame, no matter how guilty the person doing this to you is trying to make you feel. Your partner should not be doing this to you.”
• “It is the abuser who has a problem, not you. It is not your responsibility to help this person change.”
"It is important to talk about this. Many people who have been victims of dating violence have been able to change their lives after they began talking to others. If you don't want to talk with me, find someone you trust and talk with that person.”
Things Not to Say or Do
• Do not be critical of your teen or his/her partner.
• Don’t ask blaming questions such as: “Why don’t you break up with him/her?” or “What did you say to provoke your partner?”
• Don’t pressure your teen into making quick decisions, let them know that you are there for them whether they decide to move forward now, change their mind, or move forward in the future
• Don’t talk to both teens together. The victim may feel inhibited about what he/she can say.
• Don’t assume that the victim wants to leave the abusive relationship. Assist him/her in assessing the situation and understanding the options available
Do not use this website if you suspect your
computer is being monitored. Find a safe way to use the internet by accessing a
safe computer. Even if you take cautionary steps such as using an email that your abuser
cannot access or deleting stored information from your web browser, your abuser may be
able to see what web sites you have been visiting and emails you have been sending.
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