Talking to Your Teens

Signs Your Teen May Be Abused

  • Their partner is extremely jealous, possessive or controlling to the point that they stop spending time with family/friends.

  • They are depressed or anxious.

  • They stop participating in activities they enjoy.

  • They start to dress differently or dress out of character.

  • They are really concerned about what might happen if they do not call their partner back ASAP.

  • They are worried about how their partner might react
    in certain situations.

  • They have unexplained bruises or marks.

Learning healthy relationship habits start at home. The way you interact with your partner will be reflected in the way your children interact with their partners. So, make sure you are modeling healthy relationships to your children. When you and your partner have disagreements, talk it out without screaming or yelling at each other. Control your anger. Establish healthy boundaries with your partner and keep them. Respect your partner and demand respect from them. Do not stay in an unhealthy relationship. Do not talk down to your partner, call them names, humiliate or insult them. Do not accept verbal abuse from your partner. Remember that kids learn how to have relationships from you and modeling unhealthy relationships to your children makes it more likely they will become involved in abusive or an unhealthy relationship themselves.


It is also important to be able to recognize signs of dating and sexual violence in the teens and young adults in your life. Being able to recognize the signs may help break the cycle of abuse and prevent teens from thinking that abuse is acceptable, normal or expected. It may also help save their life. Nearly half all female homicide victims are killed by a current or former intimate partner.

Teens who have experienced dating or sexual violence may become withdrawn and stop doing activities they are interested in or normally do. They may stop talking to their friends or drop out of extracurricular activities. Their grades may begin to suffer. They may start behaving uncharacteristically or try to hide things from you. They might brush off, excuse, or even attempt to laugh about

troubling or violent behavior from their partner or become defensive if you ask them directly.

In addition to being able to recognize signs of dating or sexual violence in teens, it is important to know how to talk to your teens about it since they may feel ashamed or afraid to tell you what is going on. The first thing to remember is that they are feeling vulnerable and need your support to break the cycle of abuse. Believe what they tell you. Do not get mad or angry with them for what they are telling you. They need to know they can trust you and if you overreact, go off to "find this guy and beat some sense into him", or blame them, they will lose trust in you and may stop confiding in you. Your job as the parent is to be supportive of your child and be there for them when they need you.


Secondly, keep the conversation casual and bring in examples from the media they may be familiar with to keep their attention. For more information about how to talk to your teens, watch the video provided or read the handout from on how to talk to your teens about dating violence.

Tips to start the conversation

  • Pick the right time. It is often best to start casually, like when you are watching a movie or having dinner.

  • Relate the topic to their everyday lives. Ask about their friends or TV couples.

  • Point out to them when abusive behavior is modeled on TV or with friends/family.

  • Help them recognize red flags for abuse.

  • Encourage them to come to you when they feel unsafe or are not sure if this is healthy behavior.

  • Do not demand that they break off unhealthy relationships. It must be their choice to end it.

  • Make sure you also know who they are dating.


Signs Your Teen Abuses

  • They are extremely jealous or insecure about their relationship and partner.

  • They check their partner's cell phone, social media, or email without their permission.

  • They accuse their partner of cheating, flirting, lying, or teasing without cause or without evidence.

  • They "test" their partner's loyalty or attempt to trap their partner
    into cheating or flirting.

  • They try to limit their partner's interaction with their friends
    and family and may not let their partner spend time with you if they're not around.

  • They may have intense mood swings directed at you.

  • They feel they can tell their partner what they can and cannot do.

  • They humiliate, belittle or put their partner down.

  • They have a problem controlling their temper.

  • They have physically hurt their partner intentionally.

  • They pressure their partner to have sex when they don't
    want to, are not ready, or do not feel well.

When your teen abuses


This is a tough situation. But, as their parent, you have the ability to help them recognize that their behavior is inappropriate, unhealthy, and possibly criminal. You can help break the cycle of abuse by helping your teens recognize that their behavior is a problem and must stop.


First, many teens who abuse are unaware that their behavior is abusive. They may be in denial and believe that they're not the ones doing something wrong. They may even believe their partner provoked them. Point out to your teen that everyone can and must learn to control their actions and emotions. Point out behaviors your teen engages in which are abusive and explain to them why it's not appropriate behavior. Tell them that it's hurting the people around them and that their partner has the right to feel safe and have autonomy. Your teen does not have the right to know what their partner is doing 24/7, the right to control or manipulate their partner's behavior, the right to demand sex or sexual activity from their partner, a right to their partner's money or possessions, or a right to determine with whom their partner will be friends. Their partner has just as much right to feel safe, happy and appreciated as they do.


Teach and model good anger control and problem-solving behavior. Remember that your children learn from you by imitating you. Make sure you exercise control over your behavior so they learn what is appropriate and what is not. If your child is exposed to adults who lack good anger control, are abusive, or do not have good problem-solving skills, point out to your teen why this is a problem and highlight the negative consequences these people face from not being able to control their anger or effectively solve their problems.


Talk about sex and sexual consent with your teen. Define consent as freely-given and able to be withdrawn at any time. Point out what kinds of people can consent to sex and which cannot. For example, explain that unconscious, drunk and underage people cannot consent to sex under any circumstances. When news reports come up talking about sexual assault, talk to your teen about what happened and why it was wrong or criminal.


Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Read the LINA Parent Handbook from attached to the right and call a domestic violence or sexual violence hotline if needed.

Thank you for your question! You should expect an answer within the next 24 hours.