With February declared as the month of love, it is a good time to look at our teens and their relationships. Though 80 percent of parents do not think relationship abuse among teens is an issue, it is much more prevalent than one might realize.

One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. – LoveIsRespect.org

Read that again.
Yes, one in three teen relationships include some sort of abuse. Peer pressure and teenage self-esteem are some of the main causes. Now that you know the high rate of occurrence, what can you do to help?

Teaching about healthy relationships

Because the teen years are the first time adolescents will enter romantic relationships, they are sometimes unaware of what a healthy relationship means. This is especially true for teens that do not have healthy relationship models; if a teen’s parent(s) are involved in unhealthy or abusive relationships, they will be more likely to enter the same type of relationship. Have a conversation with your son or daughter about the characteristics of a healthy relationship, these can include:

  • Mutual respect and autonomy
  • Honest and open communication
  • Respected boundaries
  • No fear of negative consequences to speaking or acting in a certain way
  • No pressure to act a certain way or participate in a physical relationship
  • Balanced time with and without each other

Just knowing what to look for in a relationship and knowing the warning signs for an unhealthy relationship can prevent abuse before it starts.

Increasing teenage self-esteem

A main proprietor of unhealthy relationships is low teenage self-esteem. If a teenager does not understand their worth, they fall prey to abuse by justifying to themselves that they deserve it. They seek validation from others, especially the opposite sex, at any cost necessary. The benefit of calling someone their “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” outweighs the negative aspects of the relationship. Read more about how to increase teenage self-esteem here.

The positive side of relationships

Through dating, teens gain essential tools in navigating the world and are better able to develop meaningful intimate relationships as adults. – S. Grey

With all the negative possibilities, shouldn’t we just ban any sort of dating for teens? Not necessarily … there are actual benefits for teens in healthy relationships. For one, navigating through romantic relationships helps teens to mature and realize what they want out of a relationship. Teens who experiment with dating also learn how to set boundaries, increase communication skills and decreases selfishness.
If you suspect your teenager is involved in an abusive relationship, talk to them immediately, along with seeking outside help. Provide them the resources needed to speak up and get out of the relationship. Loveisrespect.org, among others, is a website focused on helping teens prevent and end abusive or unhealthy relationships.

If your teen is struggling in other ways, such as academically, emotionally or behaviorally, don’t hesitate to reach out for more information on how a wilderness therapy program could help. Call us today at 844-413-1999.

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