One of the biggest challenges parents face is when their teens start dating. It can seem impossible to get your son or daughter to open up about their new significant other and what their relationship is like. Technology complicates things even further. Now parents have to deal with texting, sexting, social media, and other forms of online communication. How can you know if your child is in an unhealthy relationship and whether or not they are heading down a dangerous road?
One in three young people will be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, subject to physical, emotional, and mental trauma. The best thing you can do as a parent is to be aware of the warning signs and take action if you see changes in your child’s behavior. Look for these 10 signs that your teen is in an unhealthy relationship.
1. Your Teen is Suddenly More Secretive About Their Lives
Most teens think they are “too cool,” for their parents, but if your teen suddenly shuts down or becomes less communicative they may be hiding something.
You should also take note if your teen starts lying to you. If they claim to be at one place and go elsewhere, they may not want you to know what they are really up to.
2. Your Teen is More Critical of Themselves and Their Appearance
Teens often express themselves through their appearance. Your child may want to change how they dress to seem more “sexy,” or cover themselves up more at their significant other’s request.
You can also look for changes in appetite or eating behavior to see if your child is developing an eating disorder in hopes of “having a desirable body,” for the person they’re dating.
3. Your Teen Hangs Out With Their Friends Less Than They Did Before
Friendships are incredibly important to teens. According to Pew Research, more than half of teens text with friends every few days, if not daily. When they’re not texting, they see each other in school, interact on social media, and chat through various apps. If your teen stops sharing with their friends in favor of communicating exclusively with their new beau, they could be in an unhealthy relationship.
4. Your Teen is No Longer Interested in Their Favorite Activities
Along with ignoring their friends, look for changes in their favorite activities. From volunteering to participating in school sports, your teen shouldn’t give up what they love for their significant other. Space is healthy in a relationship, and your teen should have time for both their hobbies and their significant other.
5. Your Teen’s Grades Drop
There are multiple reasons why your teen’s grades will drop when they are in an unhealthy relationship. If your teen spends too much time with their significant other they aren’t using that time to study or do homework. Additionally, abuse leads to high levels of anxiety or depression which makes studying almost impossible.
6. Your Teen Suddenly Changes Their College and Career Goals
A significant other should build your teen up, not tear them down. While it is natural for a teen to want to change their future plans to be close to their significant other, parents should be wary of teens giving up their career goals entirely. Your child’s partner could be trying to keep your teen close and under their control by guiding them away from their future goals.
7. Your Teen Communicates With Their Partner Constantly
At best, constant communication is a sign that your teen needs to step away from technology. At worst, this constant contact is controlling behavior. Abusers require their significant others to constantly check in or communicate with them – and then get defensive if they don’t comply.
8. Your Teen Expresses Fear of How Their Partner Will React to Situations
Does your teen worry when they will arrive late, have to cancel plans, or can’t communicate with their partner for a period of time? While your teen’s significant other might not be physical with your son or daughter, they may threaten to leave them when they don’t get their way. This is emotional abuse.
9. Your Teen Tries to Minimize or Defend Their Partner’s Behavior
If you do express concern over a partner’s behavior, how does your teen react? There are some behaviors that your teen should not think are acceptable or forgivable if they are in a healthy relationship. If their significant other is rude to you or them, raises their voice, or shows other unacceptable behaviors without remorse, your teen should not rush to defend them.
10. Your Teen Tries to Hide Their Body, Including Unexplained Bruises
It’s not always possible to check your teen’s body for bruises, scratches, and other damage. However, if your child starts to hide their body from you, there could be a reason. Also look for an increase in unexplained bruises due to “klutziness,” or “falling.”
There are resources available if you suspect that your teen is in an unhealthy relationship or subject to emotional, mental, or physical abuse at the hands of their significant other. Family Resources offers family counseling that is free for most participants and healthy education classes to help teens build up their communication and negotiation skills. It’s never too early to start developing healthy relationships to help your teen with their future romantic interests.
Feature image via Flickr by hernanpba