Before you attempt to get your teenager to break up with her boyfriend, try to assess the level of harm or negativity your daughter is experiencing in the relationship. If you determine that she is suffering emotional, physical, verbal or sexual abuse or simply feels unsafe in the relationship, it's time to intervene. Determine the best way to proceed to support and protect your daughter during a difficult time.
Sit down with your teen in a place where you both can talk privately. Ask her how her relationship is going. Listen, without interrupting, to everything she has to say.
Explain, without sounding like you're preaching, what defines a "good" or "bad" relationship. Characteristics of a good relationship you can mention include the couple valuing each other's opinions, respecting personal boundaries, treating one another equally and refraining from trying to control one another's relationships with friends and family members. State that if either person in the relationship threatens the physical or emotional safety of his partner -- through violent behavior, name calling, possessiveness, attempts to force sexual activity -- this indicates that the relationship is unhealthy.
Ask your teen, gently, if there's anything she would like to talk about with you. Answer any questions she has about relationships. However, do not pressure her to talk to you, if she doesn't feel like talking.
Express to your teen that your goal is to support her and help her decide what to do. According to Tim Boehnlein, associate director of the Domestic Violence Center of Cleveland, writing for "Your Teen" magazine online, you should make it clear to your teen that no one ever deserves to be harmed in a relationship, no matter what has happened to cause it.
Help your teen make a safety plan, so that she can leave the relationship without endangerment. Be present when she makes the call or speaks in person to her boyfriend about ending the relationship. She should state simply, "I've decided our relationship is not good for me, and I don't want to see you anymore."
Tell your teen to always travel with a friend or in a group, rather than by herself. Give her a cell phone so she can call 911 in case of an emergency, or if she feels threatened.
Instruct her to write down the date, time and location of any interactions she has with her ex-boyfriend in the future. This documentation can be helpful, if she needs to seek a restraining order.
- In cases of physical or sexual abuse, your teen should see a medical care provider.
- Agree on a code word or words that your teenager can use if she finds herself in an uncomfortable or scary situation with her boyfriend. Code words can be helpful if she needs to call you and let you know without alerting him.
- Refer your daughter to the National Dating Abuse Helpline for assistance in dealing with safety plans and legal issues.
- No matter what your teen shares with you about her relationship with her boyfriend, never yell at her or accuse her of doing something wrong. If you do, she may not want to speak to you again about her relationship.
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