Dating Violence

How parents can help youth avoid dating violence

Each one of us at every age deserves to be in healthy relationships where we feel safe, trusted and respected. But studies in recent years show that between 20 to 30 per cent of North American boys and girls will experience some form of physical or emotional abuse in a dating relationship.

Myths about intimate relationships increase the danger

There’s nothing romantic about getting hurt. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the dangerous myth that jealousy, possessiveness and anger are signs of intense passion or true love.

At an early age, children receive messages from media and other sources that romantic love is all-important. But adults often forget to teach young people what a healthy relationship looks like.

Another myth is that only girls are on the receiving end of relationship violence. But boys can be victims of violence, too, and may have a harder time asking for help.

Violence in same-sex relationships is often misunderstood or ignored; yet sexual minority youth are sometimes in urgent need of help and can have limited access to help and resources. 

How to help youth avoid dating violence

To protect youth, adults need to recognize the seriousness of teen relationships, know the warning signs of abuse, and communicate early and often about healthy relationships.

  • Discuss media messages and stereotypes with youth: Communicate respectfully about why certain messages and stereotypes are troubling or untrue.
  • Talk about the benefits and risks of the Internet: Make them feel that it’s OK to ask you questions or talk to you if they run into problems online. Build guidelines around Internet use just as you would for other activities. Read more about online safety.
  • Watch for warning signs, and ask questions: These could include sudden personality changes, a withdrawal from activities and people, walking on eggshells, secrecy about fights or bruises/injuries, or sudden self-destructive behavior.
  • Consider booking a workshop for parents and others who work with/care for youth: For parent groups and those who work with youth, the Red Cross offers a workshop called Healthy Youth Relationships: Adult Workshop to help adults understand the causes and indicators of youth relationship violence.

If a young person tells you about dating violence

  • Listen without judging; believe
  • Realize your limitations in providing support and help the youth access other resources
  • Discuss options: counseling, reporting, laying charges, medical needs, etc.

Let the youth be in control and support his/her decisions.