Did you know that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month? As a parent, we know that your teenager’s safety is one of your top priorities. As your child grows into a teenager, often he or she may be eager for more independence. During this period of growth, many teenagers explore new friendships and romantic relationships. Sadly, approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide are subjected to physical abuse by their dating partner each year. In light of this shocking statistic, we want to share with you a few tips to help you protect your teenager from becoming a victim of dating violence.

1. Discuss warning signs with your teenager.

Dating violence does not always take the form of physical abuse. For a teenager, it can be difficult to determine the difference between a healthy and an abusive relationship. We encourage you to discuss less obvious warning signs with your teenager, such as possessiveness, isolation from family and friends, and extreme jealousy, as well as signs of physical abuse like aggressive touching, physically inflicting pain, or pressure to engage in sexual relations. Having a working knowledge of these signs can help your teenager recognize if he or she is in an unhealthy dating situation.

2. Encourage open communication with your teenager.

Checking-in with your teenager frequently and encouraging him or her to share any new relationship updates with you can help you notice if dating violence is occurring. Even if your teenager is not willing to openly discuss his or her relationships with you, encouraging open communication between the two of you and remaining available to listen to them regularly may help them feel more comfortable going to you if they suspect dating violence may occur or has occurred.

3. Share resources with your teenager.

Regardless of your teenager’s relationship status, it is important to share dating violence resources with them in the event that they or a friend need to use them. We encourage you to connect them with a peer advocate through the National Dating Abuse Helpline, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at 1-866-331-9474 or by texting “loveis” to 22522. To learn more about healthy relationships and signs of abuse, encourage your teenager to visit www.loveisrespect.org. Above all, remain as neutral as possible if your teenager shares details about their relationship that raises concerns for you. Connect them with resources and document as much of the abuse as possible.

We know this can be a difficult topic to think about. In reality, however, dating violence affects more than just teenagers, but also family members, close friends, and community members. Do you have further questions about protecting your teenager? We are your local community law firm here to help you. Do not wait to contact us at any time, day or night.