Can You Spot a Child in an Abusive Relationship?

Debi offers her advice for parents and teachers who’re worried about young people forming new relationships. Debi draws on her many years of experience as a pastoral manager and teacher in secondary schools in East Kent.  In this instance, the advice relates to a girl with a new boyfriend but many of the signs are applicable to different relationships.

It’s also important to note that teachers have a responsibility to spot and act on signs of abuse. Many of the signs and signals relevant to parents may be of use to you if students in your form/class are beginning to form new relationships.

It is natural for all parents, especially dads with girls, to not always approve of their daughter’s boyfriend.  Maybe he swears, listens to different music or just doesn’t seem to like you. But is this enough grounds to worry or are you just being overprotective?

Sometimes you just get a feeling about someone and you just can’t put your finger on why you don’t like him.

What are the signs to look out for that my daughter may be with an abusing boyfriend?

Think back since the start of their relationship.  Has your daughter changed her circle of friends to fit in with his?  Has she stopped going to things she used to enjoy like after-school clubs or shopping with the girls?  Has he isolated her from her friends and family? Does he easily get jealous of time spent with other people? He may tell her that he feels her friends or family doesn’t approve of him, so it is better to spend all her time with him as she is the only one that cares about him.    

How do I talk to my daughter about him without her shutting down?

If their relationship is still at this stage your daughter may just need to see him without her ‘rose-coloured spectacles’ on.  All new relationships can be intense and spending a lot of time together might be perfectly natural. She may tire of him after a few weeks by herself.  You may clearly see his faults but she may not. Try not to say that you don’t like him but make your comments more about the behaviour. Rather than ‘Your boyfriend is too possessive of your time’ an alternative could be to say ‘I haven’t seen the girls lately have you got any plans with them?’  

What if things are more serious and I am really worried?

My daughter seems to have completely changed.  She used to be outgoing and always with her friends.  She doesn’t seem her old self anymore. This, of course, could just be hormones.  Most teenagers go through a sulky stage as they push barriers and everything you say or do is often the opposite of what they think is cool. 

So what are the warning signs that her relationship may be abusive?  Has she changed her clothes? Is she now wearing looser or more covered up items?  Has she got unexplained marks or bruises which she always has an excuse for? Does she seem quieter or more anxious than usual? If her boyfriend messages her does she answer him straight away and does she become more anxious if she can’t answer him within a few seconds?   

If you have noticed these things try and talk to your daughter and explain that these actions are not what a loving relationship is about. You might not be able to fix things for her and she may not want to talk to you about them but make sure she knows you love her and you are available if she does want help.  She may even be relieved and want your help.

How can I help protect my daughter?

Your daughter may not be in this situation at the moment, she may not even be dating or even interested in having a partner.  This may be a perfect time to chat with her and explain what a good relationship is about when she is ready in the future. It is a good idea to set up a code phrase too. It should be something that you will both know that doesn’t raise any suspicion.  Make sure she knows that she can ring or message you at any time and that you will come and get her but the important thing is that is it a no questions asked deal. It may just help protect her and she may come and speak to you at a later date to explain. Let’s hope the worse situation you have to deal with is the fact that your daughter’s beau listens to rap music and supports a different football team to you.  But if not I hope you have found this blog informative or at least has helped to ease a few parents and give teachers the tools they need to spot potential problems.

Good luck! The teenage years are much harder than the one before it.

Subscribe to Twinkl from as little as £5 per month, giving you access to a range of resources. That’s £5 for as many resources as you can download with no limit! A bargain and a time-saver all in one! If you want to see what we offer first, sign up for a free Twinkl account here and take a look around at our free resources.

Leave a Reply