February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month. I will be posting several related articles here with information on empowering our daughters, teaching our sons and making sure that our kids are safe (boys get abused too).
The statistics are alarming. It is estimated that an incredible one out of every three teens experiences abuse, often at the hands of a date or “intimate.” Worse, two out of three teens will never report the abuse. As parents, it is our job to ensure our children’s safety, but what do we do when we can’t be with them? The best thing that we can do for our kids is educate them. If we teach them how to protect themselves and how to not only act in a dangerous situation but also how to detect one, we are well on our way to reducing our child’s risk of enduring dating violence.
I have a teenage daughter and I admit, I worry about her. She is the sweetest, kindest child I have ever seen. She is also incredibly innocent. It would be easy for some guy to take advantage of her.
I have endured domestic violence. I am a survivor. She knows this and I do believe that she is stronger because of it. But there are so many kids out there who are enduring teen dating violence and they feel like they have nowhere to turn.
There are long lasting scars the young people endure when they are victims of teen dating violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) teens who are victims of dating violence:
- Are more likely to do poorly in school
- Are more likely to use drugs and alcohol
- Are more likely to engage in behaviors that are unhealthy or even dangerous
- Are more likely to experience depression
- Are more likely to develop an eating disorder
- Are more likely to attempt suicide
- Are more likely to carry patterns of violence into their future relationships
- Are more likely (three times) to experience violence during college
The CDC is heading up a national initiative to combat teen dating violence. “Choose Respect” is geared toward ending teen dating violence and helping teens enjoy healthy, non violent relationships. I will be highlighting this program in an upcoming post, but you can read up on it at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/ChooseRespect/.
Another program I will be highlighting this month is the Have a Heart program. It is a national campaign that is sponsored by Break the cycle, Mary Kay and the U.S. Department of Education. It was created to promote and encourage the education of teen dating violence and, through education, help end it. This is accomplished by broadcasting various messages over participating schools’ intercoms.
If your teen is dating, then you need to have a talk with them. Even if you don’t feel that they are involved in any violence, you still need to talk. Teen dating violence can start with something as simple as name calling or a mean email or text. This can turn into harassment which can turn into violence. We need to stop it, but the only way to stop it is to educate our children.
Melody Brooke, a ground breaking teen counselor who has helped to transform the lives of numerous teens and families and author of “The Cycles of the Heart: A way out of the ego-centrism of everyday life” as well as “Oh Wow this Changes Everything” offers advice on how to prepare your teen daughter for dating. You can also read more about her and her numerous endeavors to help teens on her website Awakened Heart Productions.
Melody offers this straightforward, practical advice to teens (and parents this is what you can tell your teens):
1)Trust your gut, if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't
2) Your judgment is impaired if you are drinking or drugging, rely on a sober friends judgment
3) Even if you will "get in trouble" it’s more important to know you can call your parents or trusted adult friend. Be sure you have the trusted adult friend's number on you.
4) Be aware while dressing seductively might be fun (for all the attention you get), its not worth the price if the guys you happen to be around are the wrong kind of guys
5) NEVER leave a drink unattended no matter how safe a situation feels
6) ALWAYS have girlfriends with you if you are with a group of guys
7) If the guys are drinking and acting stupid, get out of there.
8) Always keep your cell phone on your person.
9) Getting argumentative with an impaired person is a setup for abuse, they aren't thinking logically and their much more likely to act impulsively
10) Value yourself, you are precious and don't deserve to have to be hit, or to be sexual to be loved.
One thing that I do for my daughter is always make sure that she has some money on her, at least bus or cab fare or subway fare, depending on where she is going. That way, if she walks out on a date or gets stranded, she can at least get to a safe place fairly quickly. I also had her put the police phone number in her phone.
Our teens are facing many more stresses than we were at their age. Stress is a major cause of violence, whether the stress directly leads to violence, or it leads to substance abuse which leads to stress.
If you aren’t already addressing the reality of teen dating violence with your teen, now is as good a time as any. Maybe it’s time to step things up, make your good game better and prepare your child for a world that isn’t always so safe and nice. Teen dating violence is a reality; unfortunately a common one and it can happen to YOUR child. Don’t make your teen a statistic.
Biography: Stephanie Partridge, a contributing writer on teen parenting at sites such as more4kids.info and Alexandria Teen Parenting Examiner (Alexandria, VA), knows well the habits and behaviors of that mysterious creature known as the teenager. A single mom living just outside of Washington, D.C. and raising two (awesome) teenagers on her own (and one out of the nest), Stephanie has an innate understanding of teens and the issues that they face today. Her articles, providing a practical, positive and often humorous approach to tackling teen issues, have been featured on numerous websites. She is also a freelance photographer.
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