Romantic and sexual feelings develop during the teen years.
And, it seems that teenagers are starting to date and experiment with different types of relationships earlier than in the past.
As a parent, you can help your teenager make good decisions about dating.
According to some recent statistics, one in seven girls aged 14-17 said that a date had tried to force them to have sex.
Two in five reported knowing at least one girl who’d been hit or beaten by her boyfriend.
Rape is an act of violence, not sexual desire.
With guidance and support, teens can learn about healthy relationships and get the strength and courage needed to leave those that are not healthy.
Dr. Corinn Cross is here to help parents recognize dating problems, identify warning signs and know where to turn for help.
RadioMD Presents: Healthy Children | Original Air Date: March 25, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Corinn Cross, MD
RadioMD.com. Hear it from the doctor with expert guests from The American Academy of Pediatrics. It's Healthy Children. Now, our favorite mom, Melanie Cole, MS:
MELANIE: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four adolescents experience verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year.
Do you notice any red flags? Well, we're going to tell you what those are. What signals whether your child is going through dating violence?
My guest is Corinn Cross, fan favorite here at Healthy Children.
Welcome to the show, Dr. Cross.
So, tell us a little bit about dating violence. What is it and who's at risk for it?
DR. CROSS: Well, really, anyone is at risk for it. So, it can happen in any community. It can happen in any socio-economic group. It can happen in any culture. So, it's something that we do have to talk to our kids about because a lot of times, people have the misconception that dating violence is just about being hit or being raped, but, in fact, there are a lot more variations of this horrible behavior. It's yelling, swearing, putting someone down repeatedly or threatening them. Basically, controlling them. Being bossy or bullying. Of course, the pushing and hitting and really physically hurting somebody and sexually assaulting somebody. So, that all is incorporated into dating violence.
MELANIE: Well, you know the physical signs. We might see a black eye, bruises on the arm like someone was grabbing. But, you know, some of those emotional things, Dr. Cross, take a little while for a parent to maybe notice or to see or even for the person themselves to realize. So, how do we spot this?
DR. CROSS: So, I mean, really what you have to do is, like anything else, you have to be communicating to your child. So, first of all, you want to be able to talk to your child before they start dating somebody and, really talk about what it is that they should expect from a relationship. You want to let your girls know that they want to be in a relationship where they feel safe; where someone's not controlling them; that jealousy does not equal love; that someone bossing them around and telling them who they can be friends with and that they have to check in with before they go someplace; and who seems to get so angry if they do something wrong, that's not a sign of love. That's an unhealthy relationship. So, we want to make sure that our children understand what healthy relationships look like. We want to make sure that both boys and girls understand that you have to be kind. You need to be respectful. That sometimes people don't do what you want and it's not okay to get really upset and ever use violence against another person. So, we want to make sure that they understand what a healthy relationship looks like. We want to make sure that while they're in that relationship, we're sort of keeping tabs on them. Do they seem happy when they come home? Are they more stressed out than usual? Are they not sleeping well? Do they seem more jittery? Have they stopped wanting to do things that they used to do? Have they stopped their activities after school or hanging out with certain friends? These are all signs that maybe there's something wrong in the relationship they're in. Then, of course, again, you have to go back and talk to you child.
MELANIE: Absolutely. So, one of the first things, obviously, Dr. Cross, is communication. You know, keeping an eye and making sure that your teen shares with you the things that are going on in their life. How do you help them with some of the other kinds of things that they maybe don't really want to talk about? Like, what to do if they're going through this? Maybe they'll tell you some things, but they don't really think it's a big deal or, "Oh, he was just picking on me in front of my friends because he thought it was funny." How do you teach them how to deal with it, if it does happen?
DR. CROSS: So, there are a couple of things that you could do. One is, of course, you want to model the behavior in your home. So, if you are in a relationship where someone's not treating you nicely, you want to make sure that you stand up for yourself and that you tell your children like, "That wasn't okay. Everybody argues and maybe mommy and daddy got a little out of control, but that's not okay. That's not something that you should be doing and that's not okay." You know, we need to apologize when we do things wrong. So, if you do call somebody a name when you're arguing with them, maybe, you know, it's really not a nice name that you just called them. You need to go back and apologize afterwards. Even though you apologize, it doesn't make it okay, but at least you're apologizing. So, we need to make sure that we're modeling good behavior for our children.
Then, we need to talk about that if we see something in the media. This has been all over the media lately. If you see something that happens with an athlete or a movie star or something in the media, you ought to take that opportunity to talk to your child and say, "You see how this person reacted? That wasn't okay. Do you see how the victim reacted here? What do you think they should have done?" So you want to help them, basically, through other people role playing, understand how somebody could react because sometimes it's easier to talk about it when it's not you. Then, of course, you talk to your child and if they don't want to talk to you, maybe you need to find them somebody that they feel comfortable talking with; an aunt, a relative, a friend, a guidance counselor at school. There are a whole slew of people at school and in the community that are there if this really gets out of hand, who can help kids really feel comfortable and safe and have a safe environment to talk and to help them if this really does get out of hand.
MELANIE: And, if you're raising a good, strong-minded, self-confident child, teen, then when you show them, just like you're saying, you show them that athlete and you show how the other person responded and you say, "What would you have done differently than this girl who just got pushed by her boyfriend did?" "Oh, well, I would have turned around and socked him or I would have gone right to my parents and told." So, I mean, you get a good idea, if you maybe even ask them, "What would you have done in that conflict resolution?" Doesn't that sort of teach children the right ways and the wrong ways? Maybe turning and smacking them back is certainly the wrong way, but there are other ways.
DR. CROSS: Right. And, also, I think it's important for everybody, whether they're a teen or even an adult, what a lot of people don't realize is that violence and dating violence, whether it's verbal or physical, that it escalates. So, it doesn't usually start with something as horrible as bashing somebody's head in in an elevator. That's not usually how it starts. It usually starts with very little things that sort of get your hair on end and you think that there's something wrong, but you're not quite sure and you put up with it. Then, it escalates a little bit more and then it escalates a little bit more until you're so far in that you don't know how to get out. So, you need to let your teen know that if the hair on the back of their neck stands up, that it's the same sort of thing with anything else. If you get that bad feeling, this is probably a bad situation and the sooner you get out, the easier that it is. It's really important that we tell our teens this. It's really important that they have good relationships when they're in high school. A lot of people think, "Oh, it's high school. It's puppy love. Everybody's jealous. It just happens." But, one of the specifics I found when researching about this was that ¼ of girls who later go on either to be raped or in physically violent relationships or stalked by an intimate partner, ¼ of those girls had had similar experiences of dating violence when they were a teen. So, when they were somewhere between 11 and 17. These types of behavior, if they get used to it in a relationship, they're more likely to tolerate it when they're older and that's definitely not something we want.
MELANIE: Now, you know these segments are short. We don't have a lot of time, but what would you tell a teen who comes to her mother to talk and says, "Mom, my best friend is going through this. I want to help her. What can I do?"
DR. CROSS: Well, the most important thing that you can do is let them talk. So, you let them talk and you want to listen quietly to the whole story. You want to let them know that you're there to help and not to judge. You want to let them know that you're worried about their self-esteem and that you're worried about their happiness and you want to let them know that violence always gets worse. So, you, of course, don't know if your daughter is talking about herself or her friend, but you want to say, "Maybe we should reach out to this friend. Maybe we can call them together. Maybe we can work through this." Then, the CDC actually has wonderful resources. If you Google "CDC" and "dating violence", you find some wonderful resources with hotlines at the bottom and lots of helpful tips. So, I would say that that's another great resource.
MELANIE: It really is and this is definitely something that parents need to be on the lookout for. So, you've got about 30 seconds. Wrap it up for us.
DR. CROSS: I would say that modeling good behavior for our children; always taking the time to talk to them both before they get into a relationship and then while they're in that relationship; that communication—keeping those lines of communication open are really important as a parent; and if you notice that your child isn't acting like they normally are, take some time, pull them aside, find a nice, quiet place to talk and see what's going on with them. Make sure that you're ready to listen and not judge and then let them know that you're there to help them through this.
MELANIE: And, there are resources out there to help a parent help their child if you think your child might be, you know, going through something like dating violence and help them to prevent or recognize it and get help.
This is Melanie Cole. You're listening to Healthy Children right here on RadioMD with our great friends from The American Academy of Pediatrics.
If you missed any of the great information that we're giving, you can listen any time on demand or on the go at RadioMD.com.
This is Melanie Cole again.
Thanks for listening and stay well.