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How to talk to your teen about dating violence

Adolescence is a challenging period for teens and parents. As your son or daughter experiences emotional, psychological, and physical changes, it may become more difficult for them to navigate relationships.

In fact, one in three students in the U.S. experiences physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Though your teen may be eager for independence, it's important that you discuss what makes a healthy relationship.

Define domestic abuse

Most equate domestic abuse with physical violence. However, these crimes are not always violent. Tell your teen that domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. A domestic partner can also include anyone who is in a romantic relationship.

Examples of domestic abuse include:

  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Threatening words or conduct
  • Harassment over the phone or in person
  • Stalking
  • Intimidation
  • Endangerment
  • Photographing, videotaping, recording, or secretly watching, without consent

Talk about texting and social media

The very public split between Noah Cyrus and Lil Xan can serve as a reminder of the way emotional immaturity mixed with social media can concoct an explosive feud. Talk to your teen about what should be shared publicly and what should stay private. Encourage them to come to you if they're feeling attacked on social media.

Help establish boundaries to prevent abusive situations

Helping your teen establish when someone has crossed the line can help them recognize when things aren't right and know how to handle the situation. Ask questions such as:

  • What would you do if you felt like someone was over-texting you?
  • When does the content of a message go too far?
  • What would you do if you became upset by the content of a message you received?
  • How would you define controlling behavior?
  • How would you stop someone who was controlling your decisions?

Have these conversations openly and allow your child to articulate their values and expectations for healthy relationships. If you disagree, try calmly to encourage debate.

Explain the penalties

Tell your child how you can help if they are involved in a frightening or abusive relationship. In Arizona, orders of protection can be issued against offenders who are at least 12 years old. (Younger children are handled in juvenile court.)

If your child is involved in an abusive relationship, contact an attorney for help. A lawyer can help you file for a protective order and explain other legal options he or she may be able to take.

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