Manipulation can be one of the hardest types of abuse to approach, especially when it comes to teen relationships. What you see as isolation and manipulation leading to possible dating violence, your teen might see as love from a caring boyfriend. Accusing your teen's boyfriend of abuse can drive a wedge between you and your daughter, so a gentle approach is usually best. Help your teen see where she's being manipulated to help her come to a realization on her own.
Find a time to talk to your teen when she's alone. Trying to broach the subject when her boyfriend is there will cause both of them to go on the defensive and provide her boyfriend with even more ammunition for manipulation. Instead, wait until you are both calm and can talk without disruptions, like in the car.
Ask her what she thinks constitutes a healthy relationship. Talk about ways a relationship can be beneficial, such as mutual respect and feeling safe. Ask her if she feels this way in her current relationship and how her boyfriend makes her feel.
List a few ways that you've witnessed your teen's boyfriend being manipulative. Manipulative relationships often result in isolation, feeling bad, telling lies, feeling controlled and the need to change appearance or personality around a boyfriend, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org.
Take a gentle approach to avoid your teen becoming defensive, like, "I noticed that since you've been dating John, you haven't hung out with your friends very much. Why do you think that is?" This can start a dialogue where your teen can think and talk about her relationship.
Express concern for your teen in ways that she'll understand. "I just feel like someone who really loves you would want you to be around your friends," or "I hope he appreciates you for who you really are." This helps connect your concern to her boyfriend's actions so she can think about the cost of a manipulative boyfriend.
Share your own experiences with dating to create a personal connection, suggests the Liz Claiborne Women's Work Program website. Telling your teen about a negative relationship where a boyfriend would make you feel bad when you tried to enjoy other pastimes can help your teen feel more connected to you and prove that you understand what she's dealing with.
Create a safety plan for your teen, even if she's not interested in breaking up with her boyfriend immediately, suggests the National Dating Abuse Helpline website. Let her know that if the relationship ever becomes physically abusive that she can call you anytime, anywhere. Or, let her know that when she's ready to break up with her manipulating boyfriend that you can be there for her. Even if your teen seems defiant, it lets her know that you're on her side no matter what.
Step in if you feel that the relationship is becoming more serious and abusive, warns HealthyChildren.org. While it might not always work to forbid your daughter from seeing a manipulating boyfriend, you can let him know he's not welcome at your home or you can offer professional help to your teen if she continues. While you can't force your teen to not see her boyfriend, you can let him know that you don't appreciate his behavior and that you're aware of his actions.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.