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Recognizing Unhealthy Relationships

a teen with unhealthy relationships considers ending toxic relationships

Most parents don’t realize how many teens experience dating violence and abuse. Experts estimate that one in three high school students will be sexually or physically assaulted by someone they are dating. Teaching kids how to recognize the warning signs of unhealthy relationships may help to protect them from being assaulted. For more information about helping your teen avoid toxic relationships, call Imagine Spokane today at 509.870.3810.

Signs of Unhealthy Relationships

It’s normal for adolescents and their parents to have conflicts about when, who, and how they will date. Your son or daughter is likely to be interested in at least one person you don’t like. That’s okay; it’s all part of growing up. However, concerns about abusive behavior in your child’s relationship are never okay.

Parents and their children can benefit from information about toxic or potentially abusive relationships. Adults who have not experienced abuse from a domestic partner may not be able to recognize the signs without guidance. Watch for these red flags of an unhealthy relationship:

  • Someone tries to keep your child away from friends, family, or activities they enjoy.
  • A person shows a lack of respect for your child’s goals.
  • Your child worries about frequently checking in with their partner or letting them know where they are and what they’re doing.
  • Their partner displays possessive or jealous behavior.
  • Their partner has unpredictable or volatile reactions.
  • Your child’s partner manipulates them with guilt.
  • Your child feels responsible for their partner’s happiness or failures.

Additionally, any signs of physical abuse should be addressed immediately. Be direct with your child if you see scratches, bruises, or other indications of physical violence. Adolescents are often too embarrassed or confused about abusive incidents to come forward on their own. Don’t assume they’ll ask for help, even if they need it.

Tips for Ending Toxic Relationships

As a parent, it is not enough to recognize that your teen is in an unhealthy relationship. You must help your teen to realize it, too. Ultimatums, demands, and punishments won’t work to break them up. These behaviors may just make your child more determined to stay with their partner. Instead, try the following recommendations to help your teen build the skills they need to end toxic relationships.

Open a Dialogue

Listen and give your child support without making accusations. Ask questions that encourage conversation. For example, “You seem worried. Is there anything you want to talk about?” is more likely to start a conversation than “Are you all right?” which can be answered with a simple yes or no. Remember, your teen may be feeling guilty, ashamed, or confused. They need non-judgmental, unconditional support.

Talk About the Behaviors, Not the Person

It may be hard to separate the person from their behaviors, but it is more effective when you do. Instead of labeling your child’s partner as jealous or controlling, say things like, “I’m concerned that X tells you who you can sit with at lunch. Does it bother you?” Emphasize that in healthy relationships, couples trust each other enough to make their own decisions.

Accept What Your Child Says

When a person of any age experiences emotional or physical abuse, they fear others won’t believe them. If your child confides in you, take their story at face value. Showing that you doubt what they say reinforces the idea that others won’t believe them, causing them to shut down any further communication.

Make Plans Together

Don’t take charge of the situation independently, and don’t assume your child will leave an unhealthy relationship once they recognize it. Help them decide what to do one step at a time. Speaking with a school counselor or therapist is a safe suggestion that does not require your teen to make any definite decisions.

Learn More About Healthy Relationships at Imagine Spokane

Imagine Spokane serves adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years of age. We offer a variety of therapies and programs designed to empower your child, including counseling on toxic relationships. Call Imagine Spokane today for more information by dialing 509.870.3810.