Helping Young People

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 young people understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Mother with two teen daughters and younger son, smiling

Warning signs

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

  • They begin to separate from long-time friends, classmates, or family members.
  • They start to dress differently.
  • Your child’s partner texts or calls them incessantly.
  • They have unexplained bruises or marks on their body.
  • They stop 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 people of any gender can experience dating violence.

How you can help

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

When you are ready, 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’s important never to imply that they brought something on themselves or did something to deserve abuse.
  • Focus on negative behaviors, not the person. Attacking your child’s partner can cause your child to become defensive and resistant to help.
  • Encourage your child to reach out for help from a teen dating violence program, advocate, or counselor.

LifeWire has a full-time Youth Advocate who works directly with teens experiencing dating violence. Call our 24-Hour Helpline at 425-746-1940 or check out our Youth Advocacy Flyer for more information.

Additional resources

Know Your IX: Learn about your legal rights to safe education, free from gender-based harms (youth-led project). Learn about healthy/unhealthy relationships or contact a peer advocate by texting “LOVEIS” to 22522 or calling 1-866-331-9474.

One Love: Learn about healthy/unhealthy relationships.

Scarleteen: Provides inclusive, comprehensive, supportive sexuality and relationships info for teens and young adults

That’s Not Cool: Explore activities and resources to learn more and get support for dating violence.

Youth Eastside Services (YES): Provides mental health and substance use support to youth up to age 22 and their families in East King County. They also provide a weekly drop-in social support group for youth, established as a welcoming and affirming space for people exploring or seeking support for their identities.