Ah, the teen years. Hormonally-driven and emotionally charged, our teens can be quite a roller coaster – for parents too. From the fluctuating friendships and navigating through school the teen years can, and usually are, very formative, especially when entering the dating scene. For many, it’s those first few years of dating that create romantic patterns, behaviors and how we function in general in relationships. Although young love is often a very sweet thing to experience and witness, for some, it’s quite the opposite, and it can lead to a lifetime of pitfalls, poor decision making and negative habits. And the latter examples are more common than you might think.
A new study in JAMA Pediatrics, led by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, revealed 21 percent of high school girls surveyed had fallen victim to sexual or physical assault by someone they dated. It’s not just the girls. 10 percent of high school boys reported being a victim of dating violence. What’s more, many of the teens reported being assaulted multiple times. These reports are alarming for obvious reasons, but also for reasons that may be as conspicuous. The teens that experience dating violence are at a much higher risk for many serious problems such as being bullied, contemplating suicide, getting into fights, carrying a weapon, promiscuity, and substance abuse with alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.
Anyone who has ever known a teenager knows that they aren’t exactly open with their parents regarding their personal lives, but when it comes to teen victims of abuse, they often hide their abuse from their parents and their friends alike. Parents can be proactive by getting to know their teen’s friends and romantic interests, asking questions and opening a dialogue, acknowledging and addressing any changes in their kid’s behavior, and not avoiding topics that make them uncomfortable. That said, it can be a challenge to approach a teen successfully about a sensitive issue without causing them to shut down.
The silver lining is that this is when a physician can make a big difference. Kids are sometimes more willing to talk to their doctors without a parent present. Not only that, doctors can help parents too by giving them the necessary information and tools to discuss uncomfortable topics with their children. We commonly address issues like these in our practice, and Dr. Brady is wonderful with adolescent patients. We urge any of our parents and/or teens who need a little help with situations like this to call on us at any time.