For Parents: Is Your Teenager in an Abusive Relationship?

Feb 19, 2020

Most parents don’t realize how common teen dating abuse is. One in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. Nearly half (43%) of college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

Teen Dating Abuse Warning Signs for Parents

Your teenager may be experiencing dating abuse if:

  • Your teen’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive to the point that your teenager stops spending time with other friends and family.
  • You notice unexplained marks or bruises.
  • You notice that your son or daughter is depressed or anxious.
  • Your teen stops participating in extracurricular activities or other interests.
  • Your teen begins to dress differently; for example, wearing loose clothing.
  • Your teen worries if he/she can’t text/call the partner back right away because the partner might get upset.
  • Your teen expresses fear about how his/her partner will react in a given situation.

How Parents Can Help (from

Listen and give support

It can be difficult to open up about abuse, and many teens fear that important adults in their lives will overreact, blame them, or be angry. Try to be supportive and non-accusatory. Ask how they want to be supported and how you can help.

Accept what you are being told

Showing skepticism or disbelief can make anyone feel unsupported and isolated. Believe your teen when he/she is brave enough to share his/her experience with you.

Show concern

Try saying something like, “You don’t deserve to be treated like this, and I want you to know that this is not ‘normal’ relationship behavior. I am concerned for your safety, and I am here for you.”

Talk about the behaviors and not the person

Instead of saying, “Your partner is controlling, and I don’t like them,” you can say, “I don’t like that your partner texts you to see where you are so often. How do you feel when you get those back to back messages from them?”

Decide on next steps together

Your teenager may need a safety plan. AVDA can help with safety planning, counseling, and protective orders for teens. Call 713-224-9911.