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Learning Center Experience
By Jennifer Jewell, Human
Services Adjunct Instructor, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
involved with an abusive partner!”
What do all
of those statements have in common? They are all things that kids hear at some
point during their teen years. What about the last one? How many parents talk
with their kids about healthy relationships? In my experience, not many. When
asked that question, the parents I’ve worked with have replied with something
like this: “My child knows better.” “I don’t have to worry about that because
my child tells me everything. If something was wrong he/she would tell me.”
back to your teen years. Did you tell your parents everything? Do you remember what that first crush felt like? Do you
remember what it felt like to be in love as a teen? Those feelings are
intense…and they feel good. No one can deny that it feels good to be wanted. Combine
those feelings with raging hormones, a brain that is still developing, little
life experience, peer pressure, and lack of education and you may be looking at
a recipe for disaster.
has become a national epidemic yet few parents are aware of it. According to
the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline (http://www.ndah.org/) and loveisrespect.org:
A few years
ago I interviewed a family after their 16-year-old daughter had been held at
knifepoint by her ex-boyfriend in the basement of their home. The parents
repeatedly told me that they never imagined that their child, an honor roll
student and star athlete, would ever get involved with a “boy like that.” They
admitted that they were fooled by him in the beginning of the relationship as
he was very charming and likeable. Their daughter seemed happy and since she
made good grades and never got into trouble, they had no concerns.
with parents, family therapists, and law enforcement
officials from across the U.S., and while the family dynamics may differ, there
are many aspects of the violent relationships that are the same:
As soon as
parents notice changes like those listed above, I suggest they start
investigating. It is important to be very upfront with the teen about your
concerns. If the teen denies anything is wrong it may be time to take a look at
their text messages, email, and/or Facebook. Some parents believe that is an
invasion of privacy. The parents I previously mentioned felt that way until
their family therapist told them it was their job to protect their child and do
what was necessary to make sure she was safe. If someone was threatening their
child they needed to find out before it was too late. Thankfully, they took the
advice of the therapist and when they did, they found hundreds of text and Facebook messages from their daughter’s
boyfriend making demands and threats. When they confronted their daughter with
what they found, she admitted that she wanted to end the relationship but was
scared of him and what he might do. The parents did all they could to support
their daughter through the break up, including talking to local law
enforcement, notifying the school, and trying to communicate their concerns to
the boy’s parents. Unfortunately, the school said there was little they could
do as nothing had happened on campus and the boy’s parents, even after reading
some of his messages, replied, “Oh, it’s just young love.” That “young love”
escalated to their son holding his ex-girlfriend at knife point and SWAT having
of the story: parents, don’t assume your kids know what a healthy relationship
is. No matter how responsible we think our kids are, at the end of the day they
are still KIDS. They don’t have the maturity or wisdom that comes from life experiences
that enables them to find their way out of situations like abusive
relationships. They need us to teach them about relationships and what to do if
one becomes unhealthy…before it’s too late.
Dating Abuse Helpline. http://www.ndah.org/
Jennifer Jewell is an adjunct faculty member at Kaplan
University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author
and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
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