Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MCFARLAND: Is your teen in a healthy relationship?

By REBECCA MCFARLAND, Reaching Out | 11/15/2013

I recently shared with you the results of research from the Growing Up with Media study, a national online survey funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, “One in Three U.S. Youths Report Being Victims of Dating Violence,” states that about one in three American youths age 14-20 say they’ve been victims of dating violence and almost one in three acknowledge they’ve committed violence toward a date.

As a parent of teens, a community member and someone who has been working with youth and families for the past 19 years, I find that statistic very alarming and think it is vital we educate our youth about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

I recently shared with you the results of research from the Growing Up with Media study, a national online survey funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, “One in Three U.S. Youths Report Being Victims of Dating Violence,” states that about one in three American youths age 14-20 say they’ve been victims of dating violence and almost one in three acknowledge they’ve committed violence toward a date.

As a parent of teens, a community member and someone who has been working with youth and families for the past 19 years, I find that statistic very alarming and think it is vital we educate our youth about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

Many teens are unclear about what respect and normal boundaries in relationships look like. People can abuse others or be abused because they do not understand that the behaviors are damaging and wrong. An important skill to develop is the ability to recognize when abusive behaviors are present and perhaps even more important for teens, is the ability to recognize the early warning signs of abuse. The deeper a relationship gets into abusive patterns, the more difficult and dangerous it can be to get out. Your teen is at risk if his or her partner:

• Won’t let him or her have friends, constantly checks up on him or her;

• Is extremely jealous. Extreme jealously is not a sign of love but of insecurity and an attempt to control someone;

• Gives him or her orders and wants to make all the decisions;

• Mean teasing and puts him or her down in front of others;

• Continually belittles him or her, or calls him or her stupid or no good — privately or in public;

• Loses his or her temper quickly and frequently;

• Tries to pressure, intimidate or force him or her to have sex;

• Limits who he or she can talk to; chooses clothes; discourages him or her from attending school or work;

• Generally tries to separate him or her from their life led before the relationship;

• Demands for exclusive attention;

• Abuses drugs or alcohol and pressures him or her to do the same;

• Scares or worries him or her about reacting poorly to words or actions;

• Makes veiled or direct threats;

• Mistreats him or her and then says he or she provoked the mistreatment;

• Pushes, shoves, slaps or hits him or her;

• Is abusive to him or her and then comes back promising to change.

Emotional and verbal abuse is not a normal part of a relationship. To be repeatedly put down, ignored, made to feel stupid or threatened is emotional abuse. To be called names and talked to disrespectfully is verbal abuse. To push, slap or hit is physical abuse. These actions are not a part of a healthy relationship. It is important to “draw the line of respect” at the first sign of disrespect because these signs can be a warning that physical abuse might come next.

 

Rebecca McFarland is the family and consumer sciences extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email rmcfarla@ksu.edu

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