As parents, it is in our nature to protect our children from harm whether physical or emotional. But the truth is, we cannot. Throughout their lifetimes, our children will fall and skin knees. They will develop friendships that cause them emotional pain. Our children will do the very actions that we warned them that will cause harm. Children need to learn for themselves as their individual failures help them to grow. However, some failures need more from us as parents to help our children grow and recover. One of those can be teen dating violence.
As your children grow into teenagers, they will begin to date. I remember when my children started to date. At the different ages of teenage years, “date” meant different things. For the young teens, dating another person was hanging out between classes and texting when home or on the weekends. There were not many actual dates as adults envision. Older teens would begin to go out with friends to the movies. A driver’s license opened the world and risk. I remember hearing after a break-up about all the reasons why. Sometimes, our teens will not share with us those struggles of dating. However, when those struggles of dating involve teen dating violence, we need to be ready to help our teen recover. Here are five tips for you as a parent to use to help your teen.
First, do not blame the teen and remind them that the dating violence they experienced is not her fault. Dating violence, and domestic violence, involve manipulation. Manipulation often accompanies physical and emotional abuse. The other person will blame the victim for the loss of control, the temper, or “making the other person do it.” Reassure your teen that the blame lies with the one who is abusive, whether physically or emotionally. Be gentle as changing this mindset and realizing that they had no control over another will take time. Slowly, your child will rebuild her self-esteem and confidence with your support.
Second, watch out for the emotional triggers. Your teen may not share with you everything that happed in the relationship. They may be embarrassed or ashamed. Take note of the what will trigger emotional outbursts or withdrawals. Respect those emotional triggers during the healing process.
Third, expect the emotional outbursts from your teen. Emotional outbursts for teens in general are expected as they go through the hormonal changes during the teen years. But when the addition of a trauma is added, the outbursts may increase. Work with your teen to understand the root of these emotional outbursts and discuss different ways of coping. Watch your teen for developing signs of anxiety, depression, or extreme mood swings. These may indicate that your teen is struggling and needs more supportive help.
Fourth, explore the option of individual counseling with your teen. While we love our children and want to help through everything, we may not be the person our children want to share the experiences of dating violence with. Your teen may fear how you will react and may believe that if they do not share, then they are protecting you from your reactions. However, they will need someone to talk to and understand the dynamics of the relationship. A counselor can help your teen on ways to recover and how to move forward.
Fifth, be a non-judgmental support system. I know this is easier said than done. But sharing what happened may be difficult for your teen. They need to know that you will listen without going into momma bear mode. They need to know that you will not judge them for not leaving at the first sign of problems or vocalize that you knew this person was bad. Be their shoulder to cry on and the strong arms to reassure them. Let them know whenever they need to talk about what happened or how they are feeling, you are there no matter the time to listen.
If your teen experienced dating violence and is still being harassed by the other party, call our office to explore what legal options are available.