It is not enough to just say that dating violence is wrong. We need to have discussions with girls and boys about why it is, how it can be stopped, and what to do if someone they know is in an abusive relationship.
Find the time to sit down or take a walk and share what you know. Yes it will probably be awkward and maybe you will feel stupid or like they aren’t listening to you. So what? Isn’t it worth feeling awkward if it means keeping them safe? YES! Remember that YOU are their main relationship role model. So if you talk about why they should not put up with dating violence, then they are more likely to stay out of abusive relationships. Maybe they will only half listen, roll their eyes or say they already learned this in school. They need to hear it from you anyway! You are a huge influence on your children. After all they are children and you are an adult, so act like one and have this conversation. Below are some pointers to keep it simple.
- Tell your daughters and sons that you will always love them and they deserve to be treated well in all their relationships.
- Tell them that it is never never NEVER okay to hit someone you love.
- Tell them that if their partner hits them, it is not their fault. It is their partners fault. If that happens it is their partner who is wrong and needs help.
- Tell them that they cannot cure their partner. Their partner needs to be willing to change.
- Give them the number to the national domestic violence hotline. 1-800-799-7233 and 1-800-787-3224
ASK QUESTIONS. What do they think love means? Does it seem like abuse happens a lot? Do they feel like violence is a part of dating? How do they feel when someone such as a friend or family member treats them badly? If they wouldn’t put up with abuse from a friend why would it be okay from a romantic partner?
Talk about relationships in the media of people your child admires. What about them seems okay and what is not okay to your teen? Does that role model treat others badly or with respect? Do they date abusive partners?
LISTEN to their answers. Allow them time to answer and don’t be judgmental. Try to stay away from questions with yes and no answers so you can really hear their opinions and not just echos of your own.
Talk about the WARNING SIGNS so they can be aware if their friends are in abusive relationships. Usually in abusive relationships people lose interest in any activity that isn’t approved of by their partner, their grades suffer or they drop favorite activities. They have emotional outbursts, have bruises, act scared, are worried about upsetting their partner, make excuses for their partners angry or cruel behavior, and isolate themselves from anyone but their partner. Keep in mind that abuse can be from boys OR girls. LGBTQ abuse happens, so don’t think your child is safe because of their partners gender.
Tell them that no matter what they should not stay in abusive relationship and you will always be there for them if any of their partners become abusive. Assure them that you will always take their side even if you really love their partner. For more information review our Emotional Self Defense Curriculum.