Watching your teenage daughter navigate the waters of adolescent dating can be heart-wrenching, especially when her choice in romantic partners is questionable. Take a deep breath before trying to convince your daughter to break up with a boyfriend. If you demand she end the relationship, she will just fall deeper in love with him as a means to exert her independence. Instead, help your daughter see she is worth more than to be treated badly by a boy. If you equip her with knowledge and self-esteem, she will realize her future is so much brighter than this one bad boyfriend, and he will be left in the dust.
1 Teach your daughter the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. Mutual trust, care and concern create the building blocks for a healthy relationship. Both partners must be approximately the same age and have the same amount of power and control within the relationship. A lack of respect from her partner, feeling guilty for wanting separate friends and interests and a desire to change the other partner’s behaviors are signs of an unhealthy relationship. If your daughter’s boyfriend is much older or controlling, the relationship is likely unhealthy. Explain that constant calls or texts to check where she is and who she is with is jealousy, not love.
2 Ask your teen if she is happy in her relationship and if she is getting what she needs from it. An unhealthy, addictive relationship inhibits your daughter’s freedom and self-esteem. Empower your daughter to realize she deserves to be happy in a relationship.
3 Help your daughter to understand the consequences of a bad relationship. She may face unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, substance abuse, violence and decreased happiness. Let her know that a bad boyfriend may subject her to lifelong physical and emotional problems.
4 Explain the concept of adolescent dating violence to your daughter. Dating violence can take the form of physical, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse. A shove, threats to leave, forced sexual contact or name-calling all qualify as dating violence. Be gentle with your daughter if she becomes defensive when you talk to her about this sensitive subject. If she is the victim of dating violence, she may not realize or believe it.
5 Avoid verbally attacking your daughter’s boyfriend. Instead, gently explain the warning signals you have noticed in her relationship. Only broach this subject if she trusts you and feels comfortable talking frankly with you.
6 Ask her to consider taking a break from her boyfriend. Even if she is not ready to completely dissolve her relationship, she might be willing to spend some time apart from him. Recommend activities to occupy her time, such as going to the movies with friends or joining a sports team. As she spends more time away from her boyfriend, she may realize how unhappy she was with him.
- Avoid blaming your daughter for her choice in boyfriends or dismissing the magnitude of her emotions. Do not demean her for her relationship or feelings for him.
- If your daughter is isolating from her friends, changing her personality, is only spending time with her boyfriend, has unexplained bruises or has lowered grades in school she may need professional help.
- If you think your daughter may be the victim of dating violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
- ACT for Youth Center for Excellence: Research Facts and Findings
- HealthyChildren.org: Expect Respect: Healthy Relationships
- HealthyChildren.org: Teen Love Connection
- The Hofstra Coalition against Teen Dating Violence: Teen Dating Violence – What you Need to Know
- The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy: Relationship Redux: Tips and Scripts for Talking to your Kids about Relationships
- The Qualitative Report: Adolescent Violence Prevention and Intervention if a Community Setting: Perspectives of Young Adults and Professionals
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Addictive Relationships
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