Often times, children and teens wind up in abusive relationships because they don’t know how to discern them from healthy relationships. Additionally, it doesn’t help that the media sometimes glamorizes relationships with abusive aspects. Nobody is immune to abusive relationships, and your children are not an exception to the rule. These are four ways you can inform and teach your kids about avoiding abusive relationships.
Describe Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships
The first step to broaching this sort of subject with your kids is to help them discern between types of relationships. After all, many people allow abusive relationships to continue because they simply don’t realize that they are in them. A healthy relationship is characterized by respect, support, and value. Both people in the relationship will have interests and friends on the outside of the relationship, disagree respectfully in open communication, and make decisions together.
On the other hand, an unhealthy relationship is marked by one person making all decisions, attempting to change the other, or teasing the other about their interests or opinions. Abusive relationships are almost always marked by one person maintaining control over the other. Help your children understand these clear differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Remind Your Children that Abuse Comes in Different Forms
Abuse is not always marked by one key characteristic. Abuse comes in various forms; these are most commonly physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual. Explain to your children that it might be difficult for them to discern if they’re being mistreated due to the multiple types of abused. Physical abuse and assault is often easier to identify than emotional abuse, especially by young people. Explain each type of abuse, and provide concrete examples to help your kids understand exactly what they are.
Always Model Healthy Relationships
You already know that a large part of parenting is finding and using those teachable moments wisely. You can spend all day long informing your children about abusive relationships, but if your own values don’t match what you’re teaching, your words won’t hold much value. If your children witness abuse while at home, they may be more likely to engage in abusive behaviors. You can read more here about the effects of domestic violence on familial relationships and individual freedoms. Be a positive role model for your children, and always enforce your advice with your own actions.
Encourage Your Children to Come to You for Help
Most importantly, you should encourage your child to come to you immediately if he/she is struggling with depression, low self-esteem, alcohol or drug abuse, or an eating disorder. Children that struggle with these issues are often times more vulnerable to becoming involved with abusive relationships. Always keep an open door policy, and encourage your children to confide in you when they feel hurt or vulnerable.