Teens are just starting to navigate the world of romantic, interpersonal relationships. Even when they have good guidance from parents, teenagers can find themselves in an unhealthy or toxic relationship.
This can happen due to their own unwise choices or due to the unwise choices or unhealthy attitudes of their partner.
We as parents need to remain alert and vigilant once we recognize the signs, because our teens may be so emotionally involved that they can’t see it.
Effects of Toxic Relationships on Teens
“Teen dating violence is defined as the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship ... It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner.”1
Many teens do not report incidents of violence in their dating relationships because they are afraid of what their friends will think, or what parents might say, particularly if mom or dad or guardian didn’t approve of them dating in the first place.
Youths who experience violence in dating relationships are more likely to also experience: 1
• “Symptoms of depression and anxiety”
• “Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco and drug use, and alcohol”
• “Involvement in antisocial behaviors”
• “Thoughts about suicide”
Approaching your Teen about a Toxic Relationship
Once you suspect or become aware that your son or daughter is in an unhealthy relationship, your involvement and support in helping to get your youth out of that situation is critical.
Teens are famous for forging on ahead with a relationship despite parental warnings, but you can’t give up. The best way to at least plant the seed that the relationship isn’t healthy is to ask your son or daughter questions that relate to the evidence of abuse that you see.
With each piece of evidence you present, calmly ask, “Do you think that’s okay?” “Is that how you want to be treated?” “Is that how you deserve to be treated?”
Some of these questions may be about:2
• Whether your teen’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive
• Unexplained marks or bruises