Recently, there was an article in the New York Times about the rise of teen dating abuse. I wanted to write a quick article about this to draw attention to the issue for parents.
Fortunately, I have not had any personal experience, nor have I known anyone to ever experience (or admit to experiencing) teenage abusive relationships. This does not mean that it is not a serious issue. The fact that I have not heard anything, with all of the teens I work with, makes me believe that it might be more secret than less prevalent.
One major trend I have seen is the obsessiveness that young couples can have. Here are some ideas to be aware of:
1) Low self-esteem causes different behavior
If teenagers, or anyone has low self-esteem it can cause them to be more desperate for connection or control. Teenagers, developmentally tend to have lower self-esteem as their bodies change. Low self-esteem can also cause couples to be more jealous and needy of each other, which can be a precursor to abuse.
2) Control can be addictive
I talk to teenagers all day long about what they are anxious about. Many of them feel very out of control and this scares them. Teens tend to rarely be in control; rather they are usually being controlled. They are controlled by parents, teachers, principles, counselors, coaches, colleges and bosses. What they can control is another teenager and this can over extension of control can be a form of abuse.
3) Control and monitoring is now easier
It is actually easy to smother someone without even realizing it. We can text, MySpace message, Facebook stalk, call, IM, BBIM, email or ping. I have often written about teens need to constantly be connected and abuse often stems from people needing to be connected to another more frequently. Smothering, which might not be abusive, but is abnormal nonetheless, is so much easier in a digital age.
4) Obsessiveness can go unnoticed
Because everyone is connected all the time, teens might not even realize how obsessed or compulsive they are with the other person. This allows the behavior to continue far longer and at a much higher rate than ever before.
5) Inequality breeds discomfort
This concept is nothing new. I have heard young couples talk about inequality in relationships. The idea of “who has the power” is something that teens today are much more aware of. It is the reason men wait 3 days to call a girl back (need to be the one with the power) and no one wants to say “I love you” first. This kind of thinking, can lead to abuse or unhealthy relationships.
6) Abuse does not only have to be physical
Abuse can be emotional, verbal, psychological or physical. This is an important idea to explain to new couples. Often times, someone in the relationship (see inequality above) feels uncomfortable, but is afraid to say anything because they think it is normal or would not qualify as abuse.
7) Lack of connection means they need more to connect on
The cotton candy friend epidemic is a huge issue because teens are not feeling as connected or intimate with their friends because all of their interaction is so superficial. This can make young people, who are starving for closeness, crave a smothering or obsessive relationship more than previous generations.
Please print out this article and discuss it with your kids or if your child is in a relationship, ask them to gauge their connection—this can be a great way for you to get to know your teens!
Have your own suggestions and additions on this topic? I hope so! Of course, as always feel free to leave them in the comments. But, I started the first editable parenting book on a wiki. Here I am having you, my readers publish and edit my articles and add to them as they please:
-Like Wikipedia, but for parents!
-If you are a blogger, you can post link to your articles on the topic for other readers.
-Vote on your favorite parenting advice
-See what teens think of your advice (they vote too!)
Check out the editable version of this article on Teen Dating Abuse and Obsessive Relationships in our Wiki and other reader’s additions here!
This post is dedicated to Anna Goslicka who has one of the most beautiful relationships with her husband and has listened to possibly hours or my own relationship issues with an open heart and the best advice.
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