How to talk to a young person about dating violence

The adolescent period is a delicate period in life in which young people are finally separated from their primary family, a period when they cease to be children and are not yet adults. It is from this fact that the adults who care for them have new challenges related to the relationship and communication, and especially in young people on important topics such as emotional connections and relationships. Given the strong need for young people to become independent, to make decisions about themselves and their lives, and in line with developmental processes, they provide strong resistance to advice coming from adults.


The first experience of a relationship is experienced by the child with their primary caregiver, who is usually the parent. An attachment is created between the parent and the child – a special type of social connection, which is formed during the first year of life, and in addition to the social component, attachment includes emotional connection. Initially, probably the child’s innate behaviors appear and organize around an accessible, mostly adult figure, who responds to the needs and signals sent by the child. Most often, the child organizes his or her behavior around one person who cares for them (the primary figure) and about one or more secondary figures.


This connection between the child and the caregiver is important for early development, not only in terms of survival, but also in terms of building the basis for the development of future relationships / friendships, partnerships … /. Today’s romantic and friendly relationships between adolescents and peers are characterized by one specificity that distinguishes this period from all the past – the presence of the Internet and social networks. The Internet is increasingly being used to establish various forms of relationships. Adolescents establish and develop relationships through social networks, exchange instant messages, communicate with others by posting their texts, photos and videos. Therefore, a significant part of the dynamics of adolescent group and individual relationships is taking place in cyber space today. Part of this dynamic are undesirable behaviors, that is, different forms of peer violence and emotional attachment of young people, which also poses one of the challenges for parents and adults.


Friendships with peers during this period become extremely important. Friends provide emotional support, advice and information, all of which benefit the development of self-esteem. During adolescence, peers influence the behavior of adolescents, perhaps even more so than parents who have built their relationship with each other for years. Young people will talk more openly with their peers about love and sexuality, going out, shared interests, the most intimate thoughts and feelings, which in most cases will not make parents happy and will feel bad about it and have the feeling that they have “missed something or made a mistake” and will to feel helpless. Despite the fact that peers greatly influence everyday identity choices, family has a strong influence on adolescents’ core beliefs and choices. With the apparent alienation of adolescents from their parents and families, when adolescents begin to look at family rules and relationships in a different way, the influence of the family does not disappear – it remains a very important factor for adolescent development.


Young people, despite their great need, cannot choose and influence some of the restrictions and rules in the school system and parental home, and are most often economically dependent. As a “proof” of independence and adulthood, they are left with the choice of friends and partners, so they are particularly sensitive to the involvement of the elderly in their choices, with which adults often disagree and criticize their choice.


A young boy/ girl in a relationship where there is violence is having a hard time accepting advice because they know anyway that the relationship is not good and they cannot break it. The only thing left to them when one of the adults starts to give them advice is resistance and uncritical defense of the partner. Therefore, it is difficult for parents who have information that their adolescent is in a difficult relationship or suffering from violence.


Young person should be alert to the defects of her choice, and at the same time expect that his wrath and anger out on an adult, whether he is a parent, teacher or specialist for mental health which is certainly not easy.


What can a parent /teacher do to help a young person who is suspected of violence?

  • be willing to listen if a young man or girl shows a desire to talk
  • accept your child, the student … regardless of your disagreement with his / her choice of partner
  • Intervene in the event of signs of physical violence, even if the young person refuses. Although it may seem that they do not want the intervention, the adults, through their reaction (taking a medical examination, reporting), show that they care about the adolescent and that there is a person to protect him / her
  • offer the opportunity to talk to another trusted person / friend, teacher, psychologist, doctor / s and provide information to whom he or she can contact the responsible institution: Brave Phone; Blue Phone, Psychological Assistance Phone, SOS Phone for Women and Children… – Advisory Lines for Confidential Interview, Police, CSWS


Some procedures are of no help and should be avoided:

  • saying, “I told you this person was not good for you”
  • prohibit meetings with that person,
  • Insist on trust and conversation if the young person is not ready
  • Complain about a relationship or what we did to help, even if we suspect that he or she is in the same relationship again


By: Nikolina Škrlec, Social worker, MA

Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center can not be held legally responsible for any  translation inaccuracy.   

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