It’s difficult for parents to watch their children suffer. If your child is a victim of abuse or if you’re worried that he or she may become one in the future, there are some things you can do to help.
If your child is an adult, pressuring him or her to leave an abuser may make your child pull away from you. It’s important that you keep communication open so that your son or daughter will be able to come to you for help. In the meantime, contact your local domestic violence hotline to familiarize yourself with available resources. Any domestic violence hotline will also help you find the best way to talk to your child. Please see the Help Your Friend section of this site for additional suggestions.
Relationship abuse among teens is more common than many parents realize, and it can be just as dangerous and traumatic as adult relationship violence. It’s important for parents to be able to talk to their children about their relationships and look for signs of teen abuse.
- Keep communication open! Let your children know they can talk to you about anything, anytime. Ask your children about their relationships and listen to what they have to say. It’s typical for teens to be reluctant to talk about relationships with their parents, but keeping an “open door” policy will let them know they can talk to you when they’re ready.
- Don’t judge and try to keep an open mind. Your children probably won’t talk to you about their relationships if they’re afraid you won’t approve. It’s easier for your children to confide in you if they think you will accept what they have to say. If your children can’t talk to you, they run the further risk of staying in abusive relationships and getting hurt.
- Model positive behaviors. If your relationships are violent, chances are your children will take on the behaviors they have witnessed in their own relationships.
- Set limits. As a parent, you are responsible for the safety of your children. It’s important to set limits regarding how much time your children can spend with their boyfriends or girlfriends, as well as rules regarding curfews, homework and school attendance. Parents should know where their children are and who they’re with.
- Do not minimize the abuse. While you don’t want to scare your child, it’s important that he or she understands that abuse is not normal dating behavior. Studies show that as many as one-third of high school students interpret violent acts as acts of love.
- Support your child’s efforts to end the relationship. Help your child find the resources he or she needs. This can mean helping your child call the police, obtain an order of protection, seek medical help, get counseling or attend support groups.
- Let your child know that the abuse is not her or his fault. Only the abuser is responsible for the abuse, whether it’s physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or financial.