As parents, we worry a lot about the people our teens spend time with and what they do when we’re not around, especially when it comes to dating. Teens and young adults have little experience with relationships and may not recognize or know when theirs is unhealthy. It’s our job as parents to educate them about healthy relationships and recognize the signs when they may be in one.
Here are five signs your teenager is in an unhealthy relationship.
- Your teen spends every minute they can with their partner.
It is normal for young adults to be excited about a new partner and spend a lot of time with them, especially if it is their first relationship. However, if after the initial excitement, the amount of time your teenager spends with his or her partner only increases, leaving little time to spend with family or on schoolwork, this behavior is unhealthy and could be the result of an obsessive or possessive relationship.
- He or she seems anxious or depressed when their partner is not around.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, anxiety and depression are common symptoms of dating violence. Either one, when they coincide with a new relationship, are sure signs that something about the relationship is not right. If your teen’s partner is controlling or withholds affection to “punish” your teen, they will often feel anxious when their partner is not around, not knowing when or if they will hear from them, or if they have done something wrong that they do not know about. It also may indicate that their self-esteem is suffering.
- He or she has lost interest in friends or other social activities.
A loss of interest in other friends or activities could be a sign that your teenager is in an obsessive or possessive relationship. Love Is Respect warns that one symptom of an abusive relationship is isolation from family or friends. Maybe your teen’s partner discourages other activities so they can spend all their free time together, or maybe even forbids your teen from spending time with certain people. Controlling behaviors such as this are unhealthy and usually go hand in hand with other unhealthy and possessive behavior.
- He or she appears embarrassed or ashamed when talking about his or her partner or avoids the subject.
The CDC also warns that physical violence is only one type of abuse, and other types of abuse can be harder to recognize and harder for your teen to know that the treatment is not okay. Abuse can also be verbal and sexual. Since girls will often blame themselves for the abuse, they will want to hide it. They may be uncomfortable talking about their partner or seem embarrassed or ashamed when asked about him or her. Talk to your teenagers about consent and resisting being pressured into doing anything he or she may not want to do. Also, make sure you make it clear that you are available to talk about these subjects free of judgment if your teenager needs someone to talk to.
- Behavioral problems are present that were not before their relationship.
If your teenager is exhibiting behavioral problems such as skipping school, grades dropping, or being rude or uninterested in talking to you, it may be a sign that the relationship is unhealthy. A bad relationship can cause self-esteem issues that lead to your teen acting out, being aggressive, or just general grouchiness. These could all be signs that their relationships is negatively affecting them, especially if these kinds of issues have never been problems before.
Always trust your instincts when you feel that something is not right in your teen’s relationship and be sure to talk to them about important topics like how to recognize an unhealthy relationship, what a healthy relationship should look like, consent, and safe sex.
- The Biggest Dangers in Teen Dating and How to Spot Them (doorwaysarizona.com)
- The Challenging Love Landscape of Your College Campus (doorwaysarizona.com)
- 10 Parenting Tips for Raising a Healthy Teen (doorwaysarizona.com)