Teen Dating Violence: What you should know

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, or TDV.
This is a time to speak with your children about dating; what should be expected, what is not okay, how to seek help and how to cope with the many emotions they will face going forward.
As parents it is important that we not only set a precedent through our own relationships, but also create an environment where our young ones feel comfortable expressing their confusions and concerns as they begin dating.
Do you remember talking to your parents about dating as a teen or tween? Do you ever wish you could be more transparent? Be approachable for your children and help them understand the many hardships of finding and navigating love. Remember, the first love is often the toughest.
In a healthy relationship, regardless of age, both people have the right to privacy. We tend to follow the idea that we should know everything about our partners, including access to their private accounts and location.
This is unhealthy because it undermines trust and also limits independence. Understanding personal boundaries for you and your partner will give room for growth, and adolescents are constantly growing in every sense of the word.
Be honest about how your partner makes you feel and self-aware on how it affects your mental health. If you have a supportive foundation where both partners are free to be themselves, you have a much higher chance of standing the test of time and making each other as happy as you both deserve to be.
We must focus not only on victims of TDV, but also adolescents who display violent behavior. These traits can emerge as early as preschool, and parents may or may not notice the manifestation. Parents often hope that children will simply “grow out of it,” but this response is not proactive and leaves a high-risk situation up to chance.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), “Violent behavior in children and adolescents can include a wide range of behaviors: explosive temper tantrums, physical aggression, fighting, threats or attempts to hurt others (including thoughts of wanting to kill others), use of weapons, cruelty toward animals, fire setting, intentional destruction of property and vandalism.”
Many factors can contribute to increased risk of violent behavior in children and adolescents. Some of these include abuse; exposure to violence through media, the home and/or the community, genetic inheritances, drugs and/or alcohol and stress from socioeconomic factors.
Warning signs include intense anger, frequent loss of temper or blow-ups, extreme irritability, extreme impulsiveness and becoming easily frustrated.

Author: Rachel Howell

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