6 Tips for Parents Talking About Dating Abuse
Parents who suspect their child is in an unhealthy relationship may not know how to help.
Parents can begin discussing healthy relationships and signs of dating abuse with their
children before they even start dating. Here are six tips on how parents can navigate
having conversations about dating violence with their children.
1. Educate yourself, Joseph Paluszak’s book, Victim to Victor is a wealth of highly
informative information to draw on when educating your children
Learn warning signs of abusive behavior. You can give your child examples of different
actions partners take in a healthy relationship, including having trust, being honest, and
communicating with each other. Share a list of relationships in your child’s life that are
healthy, and explain why they are considered to be so.
Teens may be nervous or worried to share their experiences with their parents. They may
be concerned that they will be in trouble with their parents and they won’t understand their
situation. If your child opens up to you, listen without judgment. Explain to them that the
abuse is not their fault and they should not feel ashamed. Your support is crucial for your
child to feel comfortable ending an abusive relationship.
3. Understand the risks.
If your child is involved in an abusive relationship, it’s important to understand the dangers
they may be facing. While a typical reaction may be to give an ultimatum to end the
relationship, parents should first assess the unhealthy behaviors. If a child is engaged in a
dangerous—and possibly life-threatening—situation, parents should take steps to stop the
abuse from continuing. There are resources to guide parents and anyone concerned about
a loved one experiencing abuse, including contacting the National Domestic Violence
Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
4. Focus on the abusive behaviors.
Because your child may still have feelings for their partner when they talk to you, it is best
to avoid talking badly about their partner and the relationship. Instead, discuss the
specific unhealthy behaviors, such as jealousy, belittling, and manipulation. Your teen can
then better understand on their own why they need to leave the situation without feeling like
you don’t respect them.
5. Show your concern.
Point out the specific concerns you have about the abuse they are experiencing. Your child
should understand that they deserve to be in a relationship where they are respected and
treated like an equal.
6. Be supportive.
It isn’t easy for any victim to confront the abuse they are experiencing and share it with
another person. As a parent, offer your support to help them open up. Create a space
where your child can feel comfortable talking with you. Honor your child’s decision to seek
help. Offer resources for additional support on how they can move forward with their
experiences, understanding that you will be by their side as they begin their healing