Difficult enough when your good kid hangs around with kids you don’t like or trust; when you suspect a dangerous dating relationship you are going to wear your heart outside your body.
One out of every four teen girls experiences violence in close relationships. The number is lower for boys, but should still be of concern, particularly for boys who are gay, questing, or simply appear a bit feminine.
No wonder parents worry and try to control who a good kid hangs around with. But the age of chaperones has long vanished in most of the world. Even when chaperoning was strongly enforced, it did not always work. In most modern societies parental control is long gone by the times the teens are reached. Not comforting news, particularly when your child is being abused.
PARENTing ADVICE ABOUT abusive friendships
A useful tool is to start helping your child figure out what friendship is all about and what makes up a good friend. Everyone should know what makes up an abusive relationship. Abuse often starts as jealousy accompanied by words like:
- “I love you so much, I want you to spend all your time with me, just me.”
- “I can’t stand to see someone else flirting with you.”
- “I called you three times in the last hour, why didn’t you answer, who were you with?”
The fact remains, however, when your child falls in love with an abuser you will have probably not be able to open the eyes of your beloved child. It is a well-known fact, even adults have a hard time ending an abusive relationship.
If you suspect your child is being abused, share your worries with the child. but in with care and concern. Be brief, one sentence accompanied by a reason why you have concerns.
- “We are worried because Chris is always checking up on you.”
- “We wonder why Chris doesn’t want you hanging out with your friends.”
- “We worry that Chris seems bent on keeping you all to yourself.”
- “We worry that we saw bruises on your wrists as if someone has grabbed you too hard.”
Expect denial, possibly anger, and minimally a defensive stance and counter it with, “We just want you to know we are here for you, no matter what, that’s all. We want you to be safe.” Remember, maintaining a caring relationship matters most; you will have little influence over a child who thinks you do not care.
Say no more than the two sentences suggest above. If you child argues, simply listen and end the conversation with, “We love you. Stay safe.”
Repeat your concern when you see similar worries emerge in the future.
The younger your child, the more you have a bit of power. Notice, I say a bit. The younger your child the more you are responsible for protecting your child. Think your twelve-year-old daughter’s nineteen year old boy friend is charming and so religious and sweet, you know she is safe with him? Think again. If it turns out they are having sex and you know it, you could be the one charged with child abuse. If you have children under sixteen, for yours and their safety, you should know your state’s laws on statutory rape and child abuse.
As a last resort, some parents have reported suspected child abuse anonymously, but I do not recommend doing so. I advise that you make sure you know the law and seek a consultation from a child welfare professional on how to handle your suspicions.
Finally, here is a web page ‘Break the Silence on Teen Dating Violence’ that will prove helpful. I used some of their illustrations in my image for the poster on this blog.
For more tips my eBook ‘When Good Kids Hang Out With The Wrong Crowd‘ will be a free download on Amazon from Saturday June 1st to midnight Wednesday June 5th. The free download can be read on computers, laptops and other devices using Amazon’s free reading tools. If you do download it, consider posting a review; I’d really appreciate it. If you do not feel up to writing a review, rating and liking it also helps
Caring for you remains the most important think you can do while trying to help your child. If you have questions about what I suggest, you can ask them on the comments to this post.