With around 1 in 13 teens experiencing abuse on a date, dating violence is an area of concern for many parents. An overwhelming amount of information exists out there describing what we should and shouldn’t do in order to help our kids learn to develop healthy romantic relationships. For example, Sherry Hamby, editor of the journal Psychology of Violence, offers several tips for parents, such as modeling respectful behavior in our own relationships, talking to your teen about their life, teaching problem-solving skills, and the list goes on.
Although knowledge of different strategies is important, it is also vital to be in tune with your teen’s behavior and interactions. Dr. Tony Patterson, psychiatrist affiliated with Southeast Psych, recommends asking yourself the following questions to determine your teen’s susceptibility to dating violence:
- Do you have an accurate read on your teenager’s self-esteem? Often, some factors are readily apparent and don’t require “interrogating” your teen. For example, if your son or daughter were slow to develop, that might make them unusually vulnerable to the first peer who tells them that they are attractive. Too often, the peer who says that is a predator.
- Does your teenager get frequently rejected or excluded from groups? That can lower anyone’s self-esteem and make them vulnerable.
- Are your concerns serious? If you are truly feeling uneasy about your teenager’s ability to engage in healthy relationships, seeing a psychotherapist, perhaps simply for an assessment, would be an appropriate caution.
Dr. Tony Patterson is a psychiatrist affiliated with Southeast Psych. Dr. Patterson has special interests and experience in Mood and Anxiety Disorders, and is currently finding an important role in the treatment of adolescents and adults with the Asperger cluster of experiences and behaviors. Stay connected by visiting Southeast Psych’s Facebook page and following @Southeast Psych on Twitter.