Parents of Teens Experiencing Dating Violence

It can be scary and frustrating to know, or even think, that your child is in an abusive relationship. But as a parent, your support and guidance are especially important in helping your child understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Mother with two teen daughters and younger son, smiling

Warning signs

If you suspect that your child may be in an abusive relationship, look out for the following warning signs:

  • Your child begins to separate from long-time friends, classmates or family members.
  • Your child starts to dress differently.
  • Your child’s partner texts or calls him or her incessantly.
  • Your child has unexplained bruises or marks on his or her body.
  • Your child stops participating in extracurricular activities.
  • Your child’s relationship becomes very serious in a short amount of time.

Remember, dating violence happens in opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and both boys and girls can become victims.

How you can help

Before approaching your child about potential abuse in his or her relationship, consider reaching out for support or guidance. As a parent or caretaker, your instinct is to protect your child. However, reacting strongly or suddenly to any situation could cause your child to shut down and further isolate themselves from the safe people in their lives.

When you are ready to engage your child, approach the conversation from a place of concern and empathy.

  • Saying things to your child like “I’m concerned about you and it’s not okay for anyone to be treated like this” can help your child hear your concerns. It is important to remember to never imply that your child brought something on themselves or did something to deserve it.
  • Talk about the negative behaviors of your child’s partner, rather than the partner him/herself. Oftentimes, attacking your child’s partner can cause your child to become defensive and align more closely with the abuser.
  • Encourage your child to reach out for help from either a teen dating violence program, advocate or counselor.

LifeWire has a full-time Youth Advocate who works directly with teens who have experienced dating violence. She also runs a weekly teen support group, VOICES.

  • VOICES is LifeWire’s support group for teens 13 and older who have experienced abuse and/or violence and are interested in connecting with youth who share their experiences. VOICES is a safe space for youth to learn, grow and care for one another through activities such as games, sports, art projects, movie nights and pizza parties as well as engage in thoughtful small group discussion focused on healthy relationships and laughter. Call our 24-Hour Helpline at 425-746-1940 for more information.

Additional resources

  • Youth Eastside Services: Youth Eastside Services is a lifeline for kids and families coping with challenges such as emotional distress, substance abuse and violence. Through intervention, outreach and prevention, YES builds confidence and responsibility, strengthens family relationships and advocates for a safer community that cares for its youth.
  • Loveisrespect: Loveisrespect engages, educates and empowers young people to prevent and end abusive relationships.
  • That’s Not Cool: That’s Not Cool is dedicated to decreasing teen dating violence due to technology, and is increasing awareness for healthy teen relationships online.