Welcome to one of the most challenging phases of parenting—adolescence. It is also the delicate seesaw of a time as a parent, isn’t it? Your teen needs you more than ever during this stage in their lives, but they are also seeking independence and turning to peers for advice on life lessons.

Right now, your teen is forming ideals that set the stage for future relationships. This is the best time as a parent or caretaker to begin to teach them the importance of respect in relationships. Respect for themselves, in their friendships and their dating relationships, but showing respect for others is equally as important.

Given that one in five high schoolers experience dating violence, you’ll want to be sure you do your part to help your child understand what a healthy relationship feels and looks like as early as possible. As a parent, you can help your teenager make good decisions about dating. With guidance and support, teens can learn about healthy relationships and get the strength and courage needed to leave those that are not.

It is important to teach your teen that dating violence and abuse come in many forms. Besides sexual violence, it also includes yelling, swearing, put-downs, threats and controlling, bossy and bullying behavior. Providing awareness of what many ways this abuse looks like is helpful in preventing it from happening in the first place.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, here are some of the warning signs of dating violence or abuse. Some of these may be just part of being a teenager. But, when these changes happen suddenly or without explanation, there may be cause for concern.


Failing grades

Dropping out of school or school activities


Changes in personality, becoming anxious or depressed

Acting out or being secretive

Avoiding eye contact

Having “crying jags” or getting “hysterical”

Physical appearance

Bruises, scratches or other injuries

Sudden changes in clothes or make-up


Avoiding friends or changing peer groups

Giving up activities, interests or family time that previously had been important

Changes in eating or sleeping habits

If you think your teenager already may be involved with an abusive partner, give your teen a chance to talk and do your best to listen quietly to the whole story. Tell your child that you are there to help, not to judge. If your teen does not want to talk with you, find another trusted person for your child to talk with.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication should not be used as a substitute for medical care or professional advice. For professional help, contact the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-500-1119, www.fcadv.org.