It’s National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month so what’s a parent to do?
I speak with parents all the time and the number one thing I hear from them is this:
I really don’t worry about my kids being in an abusive relationship, they haven’t been raised with abuse in the home.”
And from there I do my level best to share how I understand the love they are surrounding their kids with. Just like their children, I too, was enveloped in a loving environment while growing up. And all that love did not protect me from nearly losing my life at the hands of a young man who claimed to love me.
Abuse does not discriminate–it does not care how you were raised, by whom or how much money you have.
As a late teen my greatest gift was my capacity to be a loving, caring and nurturing person. I had a strong desire to help people who had difficulties–all wonderful attributes; attributes that would later be the very thing that would hold me hostage in a relationship where I would nearly be killed, a relationship with a young man who needed rescue, help, or in short: to be “fixed” and at that time in my life, I thought I could handle it. I was painfully alone and devastated by the thought that if I told my parents, they would know I wasn’t all that they hoped I would be.
Imagining your child as a victim of relationship abuse is nothing short of horrifying…I get it, today I am a parent of three children ranging from 14-24…but crawling into a place called denial does not make the possibility any less real.
The best way to overcome fear is to arm ourselves with information…with that I offer 6 easy ways for parents to get their arms around the issue of Teen Dating Violence which affects countless young people ranging in age from 16-24 daily:
1. Download the FREE Love Is Not Abuse iPhone App The app is loaded with resources, simulations and answers to your questions.
4. Let your local schools know your interest in learning more about Teen Dating Violence ask that they host an event with a guest speaker to address parents and teens. Let them know that The Love is Not Abuse Coalition has free curriculum for their faculty to download and teach from.
5. Learn from other people’s experience by reading books like Tornado Warning, A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life A Mom’s Choice Gold Award Recipient in the adult book category for 2011. Read it in your book club where you can discuss with other parents what you may do to support your own children.
Transparency is so vital in our relationships with our children–remember what it was like to be their age–you also craved your independence and wanted nothing more than for people to see you as capable. Invite them to share what they feel, reserve your judgement, help them express what they are going through and invite them to explore their options with you. Let your kids know you understand how they feel, make sure they know that no matter what they may encounter there is nothing they could ever experience that would disappoint you, they have to know that you are a safe haven unwavering in your love for them.
The only way we will end relationship abuse is to meet it head on…that requires us to discuss it openly just as we have opened our heart to countless other important issues.