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How to Help Teenagers Get Out of Bad Relationships

by Erin Schreiner, studioD

According to StayTeen.org, a website sponsored by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, one in five teens involved in a serious relationship reports being slapped, hit or pushed by a partner. Teen love isn’t always full of tender kisses and long make-out sessions. Just like adults, teens get involved in unhealthy relationships. These teen relationships can have particularly negative impacts because teens are just developing a sense of self. A bad relationship can directly affect your teen's self-esteem and self-worth. If your teen is involved in a bad relationship, you can and should help your teenager establish and enact an exit plan.

Watch for the warning signs of a bad relationship. If you notice that your teen’s romantic partner contacts her at a frequency that seems excessive, or says things that are disrespectful, she might be in a bad relationship. Additionally, if your teen starts to change her habits for her boyfriend, or seems more sad or anxious than usual, the relationship might not be a healthy one, suggests Dr. Claire McCarthy in a December 13, 2012 article for “The Boston Globe."

Speak to your teen about her relationship. Ask her open-ended questions such as, “What is it you most enjoy about your relationship?” and “How does Tommy make you feel when you are with him?” After your teen answers these general questions, focus more specifically on potential mistreatment, asking her, “Does Tommy ever make you feel bad?” and “Do you ever wonder if this relationship is the right one for you?” Avoid being judgmental to encourage more dialogue.

Encourage your teen to end the relationship, but don’t demand it. While it is logically enticing to put your parental foot down and insist your teen break up with his girlfriend, this isn’t the right course of action, according to Prevention First, a non-profit agency dedicated to strengthening the foundations of children and families. If you do this, you can create a “Romeo and Juliet” scenario. Instead, strengthen your suggestion by providing evidence of why the relationship isn’t healthy.

Help your teen create a safety plan once she agrees to leave her partner. According to Prevention First, 70 percent of all severe injuries occur when an abused individual tries to break up with her abuser. Help your teen plan when and where she will end the relationship -- and encourage her to do it during the day in an in a public place -- to minimize her risk.

Seek professional help. If you are struggling in your attempts to help your teen, turn to the professionals for advice. Contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-9474 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

Contact law enforcement if necessary. If your teen’s partner continues to harass or intimidate him, contact law enforcement and file a complaint. In some cases, you might need a restraining order to prevent a violent or abusive partner from continuing to stalk or harass your teen.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

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