Understanding the Teen Dating World

As a mother, you are torn about your daughter entering the dating world. On the one hand, you want her to feel beautiful and attractive to the opposite sex. You want her to experience the joy of being asked to prom, having a boy hold her hand for the first time, and one day, when the time is right, having her first kiss. On the other hand, teen dating can be pretty scary. There are sexually transmitted diseases, the risk of pregnancy and the possibility that your baby girl could get her heart broken, or worse, be abused, degraded and taken advantage of.

Parent talking to daughter about teen dating

The Cycle of Abuse

No matter what your age, it can be difficult to find and connect with the right person. Many relationships go from romantic to toxic after one or both parties turn out to be different from what the other person thought they were. Unfortunately, by the time this happens, many people have a difficult time letting go. This may especially be true for teens.

Studies have shown that one out of five teenagers become involved in a relationship that is either psychologically or physically abusive. You might think your daughter wouldn’t allow herself to be treated that way, but romantic feelings can lead even the most intelligent of young women to justify terrible behavior, especially if the guy is apologetic afterward. An abuser typically follows a cycle in which he is abusive for a short period of time and then immediately becomes apologetic and promises to change. This cycle makes it increasingly difficult for the young woman to remove herself from the relationship, and as the abuse continues to wear away at her self-esteem, the difficulty increases.

Signs to Watch Out For

Abusive behaviors include the boyfriend putting down your daughter’s appearance, pressuring her for sex when she has made it clear she isn’t ready, threatening to leave her for another girl if she doesn’t do as he says, attempting to control her schedule or dictate who she spends time with, trying to make her feel stupid after she speaks or physically abusing her in any way. Understand that she may be afraid to talk to you about these things, and if you come off as accusatory, she will likely become defensive. If this happens, be patient and prepare to try again in the future. It can take time for a young girl to realize that the man of her dreams might not be so dreamy after all, and when she does, she is going to need her mother more than ever.

What to do about it

If your daughter is in an abusive relationship it is because she doesn’t feel worthy of anything better. Low self-esteem is something most girls suffer from. At some point in their life it will show up. It is best to develop a strong sense of self in the early years, so abusive relationships can be avoided completely. Beside the typical things that you as a parent can do to build self-esteem, having a teen mentor have proven to doubles their chances for making wise choices and experience success in their life. Developing self-esteem doesn’t happen organically, it’s something that needs to be taught. As a parent it’s tough to be the only one teaching them because our teens might not be as open to us as we would like them to be.

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