First Period Q&A with Teens

Over the years I’ve talked with many girls about what to expect during puberty. Some of the biggest questions we all have involve the mysterious first period. I have dug into the recesses of my brain to come up with all the questions asked over the years to put all the information down in one place, though I’m sure I’ve missed a few.

If you have a daughter starting puberty, please share this information with her.

Are there any other questions she has? Put them in the comments section and we’ll tackle them!

Is there a good way to know when I’ll start my period the first time?

puberty, periods, menstrual cycleYou will never know exactly when your period will start, but good clues that it is getting close to time:

  • It’s been about 2 years since your breasts started growing. (Remember those first bumps?)
  • There’s clear, white, or yellow stuff in your underwear sometimes. It can look like dried boogers or just a little crusty stuff in your underwear, but it’s not from being unclean or peeing in your pants. Your body is just getting ready for the full cycle of ovulation (when the egg is released) and the period. Your vagina is moistened with a clear fluid that can drain onto your underwear. Another thing you might notice is mucus is released once a month, about half way between your periods when the egg is released from your ovary once you’re on a regular monthly cycle. It often begins before the period starts. As long as there is no pain or funny odor, this discharge is normal. Talk to your doctor if it does smell bad or if you hurt or itch in that area.
  • Pimples. Pimples are common with puberty (and for years following). Many girls will notice that the pimples tend to worsen right before their period starts.


I’m too young for a period. None of my friends even have boobs! Can I stop it?

Puberty has such a wide range of normal ages so it is common for one girl to go things much sooner than her friends.

Puberty is most common between 9 and 16 years of age (though some girls notice breast buds as early as 7 or 8 years old).

The common age for a period to start is between 10-15 years old.

If you are outside of this normal age range, talk to your doctor about it because there are many reasons. Some can be as simple as your family tree (when did your mom or sisters start?) but some can be a medical issue that can and should be treated.

And the opposite issue:  All my friends have had their periods for a long time, but I barely have boobs. When will I start?

Again, there is a wide range of normal (see the question above).

Some families have a later puberty than others, so it might just be in your genes.

There are other reasons that deserve talking with your doctor about, such as being underweight– which delays puberty, and other medical issues that need an investigation to uncover a cause that might need to be treated. (That sounds like a mystery book, but your doctor will know what to do!)

Bottom line for early or late puberty: 

If you are outside the normal age range, please talk with your doctor.

Don’t be embarrassed to bring it up!

They might either reassure you that things are still okay, or they might help find the reason and get your body the treatment it needs. Some of these can be serious problems, so don’t be shy about going to the doctor.

This is one reason that a yearly physical exam is especially important until growth is complete — your doctor can help keep track of a normal growth progression.

How much blood will there be, and what does it feel like?

The amount of bleeding varies from day to day, month to month, and person to person.  It is common for the first 2 years to have irregular cycles, but many girls can begin to predict their blood flow volume pattern after a few cycles.

Many girls have some pain during their period. The blood flow does not hurt, but as the uterus contracts it can cramp. Like other muscle cramps, there can be pain from period cramps, but the amount of pain varies in different people.

Some girls have cramping with every period while others never feel anything.

It’s okay to take over-the-counter pain relievers (like ibuprofen or naproxen) to relieve pain. Some girls find it helpful to take ibuprofen or naproxen 2-3 times/day (per package directions) starting 3 days before the period is supposed to start to prevent the cramps.

Eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and sleeping well every night also seem to help.

For severe period cramps that keep you from doing what you want (or need) to do, talk to your doctor.

What do I do if I start my first period and I don’t have any pads around or I’m not at home?

First, don’t panic!

Wipe yourself well and put a wad of toilet paper in your underwear. This is only a temporary fix and isn’t very comfortable, but it will suffice for a short time to help protect leakage through your clothes.

Remember that ALL women have periods, so it’s nothing weird to adult women (or men, for that matter, since they live in a world with women).

Ask a teacher, school nurse, friend’s mom, aunt, or whoever is around for help. She will not judge you or get freaked out. Really.

How long should I wear a pad or tampon?

Pads should be changed if they are visibly full or after 4 hours, whichever is first. (Except overnight.) If left on longer, they start to have a foul odor, and you don’t want that!

Tampons should be changed every 2-6 hours, depending on the amount of blood flow you have that day. Tampons come in different sizes for light days, regular days, and heavy days. Don’t ever wear a tampon longer than 6 hours because it can allow germs to grow and cause a serious infection. For that reason I don’t recommend wearing them overnight.

Once your cycle becomes more regular, you should be able to predict the flow by the day of the period (and time of day, since that often varies too). Use a calendar to track the amount of flow as well as the days of your period until you get it all straight. Either an old fashioned paper calendar or an app designed to track periods can help. (Search for “period calendar” or “menstrual calendar” in your app store if you have a smart phone or tablet.)

What do I do with the pad or tampon after it’s been used?

Most pads are disposable. You can roll it up, wrap it in a little toilet paper (or the wrap it originally came in) and throw it in the trash can. (Use a single layer, ladies! Don’t be wasteful with a wad of TP!)

If you use re-usable pads, they will have to be washed before the next use. Talk to your parent about where to keep them between uses.

Many people flush tampons down the toilet, but that can lead to clogged toilets in many sewage systems. Never flush into a toilet that uses a septic tank. Tampons do not break up like toilet paper does and they will clog a septic tank system. If you aren’t sure, you can wrap it in toilet paper and throw it in the trashcan.

Never flush a plastic applicator. You can either put it back in the wrapper or wrap in toilet paper and throw it in the trash.

I leaked! Not only am I totally embarrassed that everyone will know, what do I do to clean up my underwear?

When a period first starts, it often comes without warning and underwear can get soiled.

Heavy flow days can also cause leakage onto your underwear. If you expect a heavy flow day, you can wear old underwear, prepare with a product designed for heavier flow, and go to the bathroom more often to change the pad or tampon.

Despite the best techniques, all women sometimes soil their underwear and even their outer clothes. If you can change right away, fresh blood is easier to clean than dried blood. (This goes for just about any spill in the kitchen too, so clean up as soon as you spill!)

If you’re at school, go to the nurse’s office. She can help and it probably won’t be the first time a girl has come to her for help– really! If you’re at a friend’s house, see if she has something you can borrow if you don’t have an emergency change of clothes.

In general, cold water to rinse out blood is better than hot. Because blood is made of proteins that change in heat, the heat can “cook” the blood into the clothing and make the stain permanent.  If you have laundry detergent you can put a few drops on the stain and rub it in. If you have a spray or stick stain remover, you can use that. Allow that to soak overnight in some cold water before putting in the regular laundry.

Basic tips:

  • Carry a clean set of underwear (and pants if needed) in a plastic bag to use in case of emergency.
  • Carry a stain stick (they sell these near the laundry detergent) if desired.
  • Rinse in cold water as soon as you can.
  • Rub stain remover or laundry detergent into the stain and let it soak. Put it in the plastic bag you carry if you aren’t home.
  • As soon as you get home put the soiled clothes in cold water (rub in more stain remover or laundry detergent as needed). Allow clothing to soak overnight.
  • After soaking overnight, rinse in cold water. Repeat a scrub and soak in detergent if needed.
  • Once you don’t see the stain any more, you can wash with the rest of your clothes like normal.

What about when a pad won’t work, like swimming or ballet? Am I too young for a tampon?

Tampons frighten a lot of girls, but they’re safe to use as soon as you’re comfortable using them.

They do not affect your virginity.

Tampons simply are a product that will collect the blood inside you so you don’t need to wear a pad on the outside.

Many girls use one with their first period. Others don’t use them at all. It’s up to you!

How exactly do you get the tampon in? 

First, some general anatomy. You need to know what things look like down there. You can use a hand held mirror to look at yourself and compare to this picture. This is a drawing, so you will look a little different, but you should be able to see the basic parts.

Tampons are inserted directly into the vagina (labeled “vaginal orifice” in the picture).

Much like an absorbent sponge, a tampon will gently swell as it becomes soaked with blood.

A string allows for easy removal from the body.

Tampons are convenient for swimming or exercising and can be paired with a panty liner – a type of thin pad or a regular pad for extra protection on heavy flow days.

When using tampons, women should change them every 4-6 hours.

It’s time to change the tampon, but I can’t find the string. Did it get lost up there somewhere? 

First: Don’t panic! Your tampon is not lost forever!

Sometimes the string can stick to the skin between your labia (labeled “labium magus” and “labium minus” above). You might need to feel around a bit. If there’s a mirror nearby, you can use it to look. Sometimes going pee can help the string fall down if it’s stuck around the skin somewhere.

If the string really is up in the vagina, you can put your finger into the vagina to see if you can slip the string back out.

If you can’t get the tampon out, tell an adult as soon as possible. If they can’t help you get it out (or if you don’t want them to try) you might have to go to the doctor to have it removed.

NEVER forget about a tampon that has been put in… you could get a serious infection if you leave one in too long.

I seem to always get spotting on my underwear when I wear a tampon, but the tampon isn’t full of blood yet. Why is that?

There are several reasons I can think of that blood can get on your underwear.

The first, of course is the tampon overflows because it was left in too long for the amount of flow you have at that time. But you can tell that when there is no more white showing on the tampon. If it isn’t full, there are other reasons to consider.

Was the blood on your skin when you put the tampon in? If you wipe after putting the tampon in, that can help this issue. Actually, more than wiping, pushing the toilet paper (TP) up towards where the tampon is (with the string out of the way) can show if there’s blood in the area. Repeat until the TP is clean. You can also wipe the folds of skin with a flushable wet wipe that is sold near the other feminine hygiene products or near the diaper wipes. This follows the same concept but wiping with a wet cloth works better than dry TP for many issues.

Another cause would be if the tampon is not inserted properly. Be sure it is completely in. Signs that it isn’t in also include being able to feel it when you walk or sit. If it’s in all the way, you should never feel it.

Did you pee or poop with the tampon in? This can move the tampon enough to let blood leak around it. Try changing the tampon and wipe after placing it each time you go to the bathroom.

Why do I need to pee so much when I’m on my period?

Many women gain water weight just before their period.

Have you heard women complaining of bloating? That’s the water.

Your body’s hormone changes cause this slow gain, and they also cause the release of the excess water back out of your body (called diruresis). This increases urine production.

Look at it in a positive light: you have to go to the bathroom often, so it reminds you to change your pad or tampon frequently!

Can you pee or poop with a tampon in?

Short answer: Yes.

But if you do, it is possible to have the tampon shift and cause leakage, especially if you have a bowel movement (poop).

If it is too soon to change the tampon and you need to go, you can hold the string to the side so it doesn’t get as soiled while you go.

Wipe carefully so you don’t pull on the string– you can keep holding it to the side while you wipe too.

My school uniform doesn’t have pockets. How can I carry a pad or tampon to the bathroom?

If your uniform is a skirt, you can wear shorts with a pocket underneath.

Some girls will be able to wear a tampon with a pad so that when they remove the pad mid-day, they leave the un-soiled pad on for the afternoon.

If you’re allowed to carry a purse, carry one every day for unexpected first period days and to get in the habit of always having it.

You can also talk with your school nurse or a teacher about what other girls do.

I track my periods on a calendar, but there doesn’t seem to be any pattern. Why aren’t they once a month like they should be?

Once a month is more of a phrase than a reality.

A typical cycle is about 21 – 35 days from start to start.

Bleeding can be as little as 2 days and up to 7 days.

The first 2 years after starting a period, many girls are irregular. After those 2 years, it becomes more predictable.

You might be different than your friend, but your cycle should be about the same each month after the first 2 years.

It does help if you track your cycles on a calendar or app.

My bleeding seems so heavy. I soak a pad within an hour and there are sometimes clumps in the blood. What is that?

If you’re having very heavy bleeding, talk to your doctor because you can be at risk for anemia (too low of blood counts from blood loss).

This can sometimes simply be your body adjusting to a period, but it can also be from a treatable condition.

Your doctor can help you decide what needs to be done.

How long will the bleeding last? 

The amount of bleeding and how long it lasts varies from person to person.

Some days there will be barely any blood (called spotting because it looks like just a spot of blood).

Other days are heavier.

Bleeding can last between 2-7 days normally.

Again, charting it on a calendar or app can help you figure out your pattern.

How do I keep from getting stinky?

Change is good

First, be sure to regularly change your tampon or pad.

If it goes without being changed, bacteria start to make a very foul odor.

You should change pads or tampons at least every 6 hours (except overnight, when the pad can be left on as long as you sleep). This is important to avoid infections as well as bad smells!

wipes

You can use flushable wet wipes instead of toilet paper to help clean the area better.

If you need them outside of your home you can carry some in a plastic zip lock bag and keep with your pads or tampons.

deodorant products?

There are feminine hygiene products with deodorant available, but who wants to smell flowery?

Seriously, I don’t recommend these because too many girls have an allergic reaction to them and who wants to have an itchy rash in the place you can’t publicly scratch?

Wash!

Once you go through puberty, your body in general smells more, so it is important to bathe regularly.

Don’t forget to do a daily wash of all the skin folds between your legs.

You can use any soap (avoid fragrances if your skin is sensitive), but be sure to rinse well! Soap that remains between the folds can cause rashes.

You can rinse the area by splashing a cup of clean water between your legs a few times. If you have a hand-held shower head available, that makes it easy to rinse the area well. You can also lift a leg so the shower water can rinse between your legs — but hold on so you don’t fall!

Do I need to wear protection between periods?

You might want to wear a panty liner when it is getting close to your next period, just in case you start, but it’s not necessary.

How do I know when the next one will be?

Over time it becomes easier to predict.

Keep track of the dates of bleeding as well as how heavy it is and any other symptoms. These can include pimples, cramping, mood swings, tiredness, constipation or diarrhea, back pain, sore breasts, bloating, food cravings, or headaches. All of these symptoms can help predict your cycle.

There are several apps available on the computer, smart phones, or tablets, many of which are free. I suggest going to your app store and reading reviews to pick your favorite.

How much more will I grow since I started my period?

Growth speeds during the years before your period, then slows after your period.

Some girls stop growing all together, but most still grow for the next 1-2 years.

Ask adult family members how they grew (if they remember) because growth patterns tend to follow parents and other family members.

What is PMS?

Common effects of PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) include: bloating, cramps, fatigue, moodiness, headaches, or pimples.

There are over-the-counter medications that can ease these symptoms. Ibuprofen or naproxen tend to work well.

If you have severe cramping and you are expecting your period, you can start the ibuprofen or naproxen three days before your symptoms start. This decreases the pain better than starting the medicine when the cramps start.

Some girls prefer wearing loose clothing or using warm compresses on their stomach.

Regular exercise can help monthly cramping, plus it’s healthy for your body, so keep moving!

Sleep helps regulate our mood. Many girls and women need extra sleep before and during their period. Listen to your body!

Mothers can share with their daughters their own tricks for coping.

My boobs hurt with my periods. Why is that?

Many girls notice breast tenderness during PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome).

Your hormones are changing at this time and they can cause the breasts to swell. The swelling causes tenderness.

You can help minimize this by eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep (all month long).

Caffeine can worsen it, so avoid things with caffeine.

Where can I get more information?


ThePeriodBlog has a lot of great information, including how to insert a tamponinformation about your body,  counting your cycle, and more.

I rarely hear questions about the hormones or technicalities of puberty, but for more on the menstrual cycle check out All About Menstruation by TeensHealth. (They also include more related topics links at the bottom.)

A good review of puberty, including how it is staged is found on Young Women’s Health (Boston’s Children’s Hospital).

My favorite book for girls about puberty is now a series of books. The Care and Keeping of You and The Care and Keeping of You 2 are available from many retailers. I like that they go over everything from staying clean to eating right to the importance of sleep and more.

I’m a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. I link to these books because I recommend them highly, regardless of where you purchase them.



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Teen Dating Violence Prevention & Treatment

As discussed earlier, teen dating violence is a relatively common problem that can occur in any socioeconomic circle. It’s important to recognize teen dating violence, but it’s even better to learn teen dating violence prevention and what to do if you recognize trouble!

Family relationships

How we raise our children from infancy and continuing throughout their lives helps set the expectations for relationships.

Abusive home increases the risk

Teen Dating Violence Prevention & Treatment.Children who are raised in homes with abusive behaviors are much more likely to grow up to be in an abusive relationship.

If your home is not safe make every attempt to make it so.

Stop the cycle!

SEcurity

We need children to feel loved and secure.

Children who feel unloved might look for love in all the wrong places, trying to please others and end up being taken advantage of.

Love unconditionally!

Parenting

Kids need defined limits, but an ability to learn and grow into independence with experience. Being firm and setting boundaries is an important part of being a loving parent.

Parents are NOT their child’s friend.

You don’t need to be a friend to be an effective, loving, parent who is well loved and respected.

As your child grows and matures, it is important that you allow them to take more responsibility for their plans and actions.

Be a role model

Kids need help learning to stand up for themselves and to deal with anger and disappointment in a healthy way. Set an example for this. Life typically presents many opportunities to model these behaviors.

Show healthy communication in your relationships. Use positive phrases, respectful words, and compliment one another.

Don’t let one partner dominate. Take equal share of responsibilities and decisions.

Do things with your significant other and with other people. Expect that your partner will also spend time with others. Don’t be overly jealous. Relationships need trust. Always spending time together isn’t healthy and doesn’t allow you to each follow your own interests.

Respect others in your life and be sure they also respect you.

If you have not learned to control your temper, learn.

Ensure enough sleep for everyone at home, as we are all more short-tempered when tired.

There are many self-help books on this topic and counseling is available if you struggle in your own relationships.

Peer relationships

Friendships and dating relationships provide an opportunity for teens to learn and practice healthy communication, social skills, and managing strong feelings.

Teens need to develop independence while the trusted adults around them provide support and help them stay safe.

Talk to your kids about healthy choices and as they mature, allow them to make more decisions about what they do, when they do things, and who they are around. If you feel they aren’t making safe choices, let them know why.

Don’t be judgemental in how you approach things. There’s no faster way to turn a teen off to a conversation than putting him or her down or by making them feel like they’re being lectured.

Respect

Respect self

Kids should be taught to respect themselves in all they do: eat nutritionally, exercise, get enough sleep, wear helmets, buckle up, stay away from drugs, etc.

Respect others

Kids should be taught to respect others: say nice things, don’t ask others to do things that might cause them harm, respect their personal space and things, etc.

Demand respect

Teens should enforce that others treat them with respect.

If a friend does not treat them with respect, they can try first to talk with the friend about it if they feel safe doing so. If the friend does not change behaviors, they should take a break from the friendship.

Talking to teens

Start before they’re dating

It’s best to start talking about healthy relationships before your child starts dating.

Set expectations for how old they will be when they are allowed to go out in groups of boys and girls as well as when they will be allowed to go on an actual date. How well do you need to know the person they will date?

Talk about what they should do if they find themselves in a scary situation.

Discuss rules for friends coming to the house if you’re not home. Or if they’re allowed to go to a private area or if they must stay in the family room.

Talk about what to look for in a romantic partner, qualities that are important and not just superficial.

Ask how they would like to be treated and how they will treat their date.

Talk about sex. Kids who have sex at young ages are more likely to have multiple partners. Having multiple partners increases the risk of infections and dating violence.

Drugs and alcohol increase risk

Remind kids that alcohol and drugs impair our abilities to handle our emotions and actions. They do not excuse our actions, but we tend to not make good choices when we’re under the influence.

We also put ourselves at risk of a forced sexual encounter when we’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Date rape can also occur if someone slips a substance into a drink, so they should always carry their drink or get a new one from a trusted source.

Starting the conversation

Use opportunities that present themselves to trigger conversations.

If you see people arguing in a television show, talk about what was and was not effective in how they handled the situation. Ask what your kids would have done differently.

If the news reports another #MeToo story, ask what your teen’s thoughts are on the subject. Talk about recognizing unhealthy relationships and how to get out of abusive situations.

Answering questions

If your child asks questions, don’t shy away. Don’t assume they’re too young to hear the answer because if they’re asking, there’s a reason.

You can certainly ask where they’re coming from to help guide your answer, but answer honestly.

If you don’t know what to say, offer to talk about it at a specified time in the near future, such as after dinner that night. That gives you time to think and plan what to say but let’s your child know you want to talk. Don’t forget!

Emotional support

Be there to just listen if your child needs an ear. Offer encouragement and advice. Do this routinely, not just if you’re concerned about a specific issue.

If you always offer an ear without harsh judgement or unsolicited advice, your kids are more likely to keep talking. (Note: Just because they want to talk doesn’t mean they’re ready to accept advice. Ask if you can offer advice and wait until they say yes.)

Remind teens that they are never to blame if someone forces them to do something sexually they don’t want to do. They need to feel open to share this pain with you or another trusted adult so they can get the help and support they need.

preventing teen violence
Preventing Teen Dating Violence. Source: VetoViolence

What if there is an unsafe relationship?

It can be frustrating if your child’s in an unhealthy relationship but isn’t ready or willing to leave.

It can be difficult to enforce ending a relationship. Be careful in how you approach the situation. Consider working with professionals at the school or in the community.

Advice to get out of a relationship will be better received if your teen understands how their relationship is not healthy. Help them understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

They need to know it isn’t their fault and it isn’t under their control how another person acts. Ideally, your teen will be able to make the decision to leave the relationship.

I’ve actually seen a teen get pregnant on purpose because her parents refused to let her see her boyfriend. She decided that they’d have to allow him to see his baby (and by default, her). Of course it didn’t work as planned. She did get pregnant, but it didn’t help her relationship.

If you think they’re in immediate danger, you need to seek professional help.

There are many ways to get help

Abusers often monitor computer and phone use, so use caution.

SafeHome (KC Area)

From a safe computer, click here if you’re in the KC area.  From a safe phone call 913-262-2868. (Phones answered 24/7 confidentially at SafeHome).

Safety Plan (Love is respect)

Love Is Respect has a great safety plan for teens who are planning on leaving an abusive relationship.

DATING MATTERS®

Dating Matters is a free, online course available to educators, school personnel, youth mentors, and others dedicated to improving teen health. Learn what teen dating violence is and how to prevent it through graphic novel scenarios, interactive exercises, and information gathered from leading experts.

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

These resources are designed specifically for teens and young adults. It is managed by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) and offers  support from trained Peer Advocates.

Call: 1-866-331-9474 Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Text: “loveis” to 22522

TTY: 1-866-331-8453

Web: www.loveisrespect.org

 

Teen dating infographic

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Teen Dating Violence: Recognition

Would you recognize signs of dating violence? Many teens don’t report it to friends or family. It can be difficult to recognize despite the significant prevalence. Victims might not say anything out of fear for their safety, embarrassment, low self-esteem, or not recognizing the abusive behaviors. Whatever the reason for the under-reporting, parents and other adults who interact with teens must recognize signs of dating violence to help protect our kids.

Relationships

Teen Dating Violence: RecognitionWe want our kids to develop healthy relationships where they can have fun, grow in their own identity, and be true to their own values. Healthy relationships are founded on honesty, trust, and communication. There is mutual respect.

Dating abuse can happen in any unhealthy relationship. It happens to smart people, rich people, girls, guys, LGBT, and can happen in any community. We see news stories of abusive relationships but it doesn’t always seem real. A new bride murdered.  A teen raped.  A sports figure accused.

Failed recognition

Unfortunately we don’t even know about most abusive relationships. People suffer silently.  How is a parent to know?

Can a teen see risk factors before becoming involved with a risky personality?

Abuser characteristics

Parents might look for the “type” of teen that they want their child to steer away from, but unfortunately, the abusers are not easily identified.

Abusers do not look like drug dealing, tattoo covered, pierced people in tattered clothing.

They are difficult to recognize on first glance because they tend to be popular, smart, good looking, and personable.

They are often good at reading people and responding to other’s desires, making them seem “perfect” initially.

Abusers manipulate others. Have you heard of gaslighting? It’s a common means to make the victim feel responsible.

They gain trust.

They weave deception.

Traits to watch for in an abuser:

  • Blames others for all problems
  • Jealous
  • Impulsive
  • Wants to move quickly into a relationship
  • Criticizes others
  • Does not respect personal boundaries
  • Denies responsibility for actions
  • Takes risks
  • Insulting (you’re fat, you’re stupid, no one else would love you like I do)
  • History of hitting or hurting others
  • Tries to monopolize your time and life – wants to control what you do, who you’re with, even what you’ll wear
  • Seems perfect initially (no one’s perfect!)
  • Mood swings or can’t manage anger or frustration well

What an abusive relationship might look like

Starting out – all seems great!

The relationship typically starts out well. A lot of laughs, good times.

If it didn’t, people would leave.

Power and Control cycle

Abusers have a power and control cycle that builds over time. They gain a little trust, then test with a little control.

Bit by bit they become more controlling and abusive. It builds so slowly many people miss the early warning signs and then are so swept by the cycle that it’s hard to leave.

Abusers want to know your every move, which at first might even seem flattering, but it is a control tactic. They might choose what you wear or where you go. Abusers monitor your phone calls to see who you talk to. They isolate you from your friends and even family so you lose your support group. They put you down so you feel no one else would like you or want you.  Abusers make you feel less of a person and they are “good” to put up with you.

They get jealous (again, flattering on the outset because they “care”). Abusers often apologize for hurting you, but then claim it is your fault that they behave that way.

In truth, they blame others for most of their behaviors and only take credit when things make them look good.

Cool tool

Breakthecycle.org has a really cool interactive wheel to see the relationship between words and actions. Move your cursor around the wheel to get more information on each topic in the orange part of the wheel.

Signs of an unhealthy relationship:

  • One or both people try to change the other
  • Control: one person makes most or all of the decisions
  • Isolation: one or both people drop friends and interests outside of the relationship
  • Fighting: one or both people yell, threaten, hit, or throw things during arguments
  • Verbal abuse: one or both people make fun of the other’s opinions or interests
  • Jealousy and control: one or both people keep track of the other all the time by calling, texting, or checking in with friends
  • Relationship moves quickly to “serious”
  • Mood swings, anxiety, depression, personality changes
  • Physical signs: bruises, cuts, scrapes, showering immediately when coming home
  • Abused feels guilty and “at fault” and makes excuses for their partner
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Multiple sexual partners

Follow your instincts

If you suspect something is not right, act on your hunch and take action to address issues and leave the relationship early if problem behaviors persist.

 

If your teen is in a relationship with someone who is violent, your teen may:

  • Avoid friends, family, and school activities
  • Make excuses for a partner’s behavior
  • Look uncomfortable or fearful around a partner
  • Lose interest in favorite activities
  • Get lower grades in school
  • Have unexplained injuries, like bruises or scratches

If you think your teen might be an abusive person:

Teens who use physical, emotional, or sexual violence to control their partners need help to stop. Don’t make excuses if you think your child has a problem.

If your teen is abusive, he or she may have these characteristics:

  • Jealous and possessive
  • Blames other people for anything that goes wrong
  • Damages or ruins other people’s things
  • Wants to control a partner’s decisions
  • Constantly texts or calls a partner
  • Posts embarrassing information or pictures about a partner online

Next up:

How to prevent and seek help for teen abusive relationships.



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Teen Dating Violence: Stats to Know

Teen dating is an important way for kids to learn about themselves and others, but it can open them up to risky behaviors, heartache, and more. Violence in teen relationships is more common than you might realize, but recognizing warning signs can help protect our kids in their relationships.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

teen dating violence statsFebruary is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, so it is a great time to learn about this all too common problem.

Today I’ll review the statistics to show just how prevalent it is.

Tomorrow I’ll cover how to recognize unhealthy relationships.

A third post will talk about what you can do to prevent abusive relationships and what to do if you recognize one.

What is teen dating violence and why should we care?

Definition

Teen dating violence is the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking.

It can occur in person or electronically and can occur between a current or former dating partner.

Lasting effects

Youth who are victims are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, engage in unhealthy behaviors (use of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol).

They often show antisocial behaviors and think about suicide.

Teens who are victims of dating violence in high school are at higher risk for victimization as an adult.

Dating apps

Dating apps isn’t what this post is about, but it deserves at least a mention. Certainly there’s a lot of teen dating violence with teens who meet in class or through a common friend, but this “service” opens up a Pandora’s Box of risky possibilities.

Teen dating apps?

Sadly, in researching this subject, the first many posts that showed up on my Google search for “teen dating” were teen dating apps. Not adults-only apps, or even apps that pretended to be adult-only.

Apps with “teen” and “dating” in the title.

One of the top search findings was a men’s website with an article about the “best” and “safest” teen dating apps. Yikes! This is on a website designed to attract adult men.

Another advertised that it was for kids 13-17 years of age. I’m not a fan of early teenage kids dating in general, but certainly a 13 year old is too young to safely navigate an online dating service!

As a mother of two teens, this is incomprehensible and scary to me. Why can’t kids meet the old fashioned ways ~ through friends, classmates, clubs, and activities?

On the other hand, I see the draw. So many teens of today haven’t mastered social skills. Kids of all ages today rely on texting to communicate with friends. They aren’t sure how to approach someone they don’t know. Teens find it hard to carry on a verbal conversation.

It’s easy to put your profile out there and search for someone with like-minded personalities. Easy, but not safe!

Thankfully, CommonSenseMedia.org had a high-ranking result to my search. Check out Tinder and 5 More Adult Dating Apps Teens Are Using, Too to see their stats and warnings. I highly recommend Common Sense Media in general for parents to help them moderate their children’s media intake: movies, games, apps, and more.

Dating violence: a very difficult and complex topic  

When teens find themselves in an abusive relationship, they often can’t find an easy way out. Sometimes they’re not even sure if the relationship is healthy or not.

How to separate?

Teens might share friends with their abusive partner. Their friends might think the abuser is wonderful, lending to peer pressure to stay together.

They typically go to school together, so it is difficult to avoid each other entirely.  

Teens might fear trying to leave the relationship safely.  

Victims often have feelings of love and attachment to the abuser, and hope that behaviors will change.

Drawing the line

If teens have lived with domestic abuse at home, they might think the abuse is normal.  

The abusive behaviors tend to lower the victim’s self esteem, making leaving feel less desirable since they feel no one else will ever care about them and a bad relationship is preferable to being alone.  

Guilt

Victims are often confused and made to feel like the abuse is their fault. They are told again and again that “if you didn’t do ___, I wouldn’t have had to ___.” They believe the abuser’s words.

Sometimes the abuse starts so gradually, it takes time to recognize that it’s there. By the time a victim realizes it, he or she may feel that if they say anything or get out of the relationship, others will think they’re stupid for not seeing it earlier. They continue to play the game of happy couple.

Bullying

Teens can experience cyberbullying even when not with their (ex-) partner.

There are no physical signs with verbal or online abuse, but the emotional scars can last a lifetime.

Even physical abuse (pinching, hitting, shoving, slapping, punching, or kicking) doesn’t always leave physical marks. If marks are visible, victims often make up stories to explain how they got there to cover for their partner.

Learn about abuse to help save someone you love from a dangerous relationship!

Stats- in other words, it’s a problem!

2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey

The CDC performs surveys of many risk factors on our children every other year. The 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey is the latest reported. The 2017 report is expected to be published later this spring.

Nearly 70% of students nationwide dated or went out with someone during the 12 months before the survey. The statistics below represent a percentage of these 70% in the 12 months prior to the survey.

  • About 10% had been physically hurt on purpose (counting hit, slammed into something, or injured with an object or weapon) by their date or someone they had dated.
  • Over 10% of students had been forced to do sexual things they did not want to do by someone they were dating or going out with. These included being kissed, touched, or physically forced to have sexual intercourse.

The prevalence of physical teen dating violence did not change significantly from 2013 (10.3%) to 2015 (9.6%).

Other stats

Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States are physically abused by dating partners every year.

Females are more likely to be the victims (1 in 4 women have been assaulted by a partner).

Men are also at risk: 1 in 14 men report being victims.

Regardless of sex, it is likely that abusive relationships are underreported due to the nature of the problem.

Tomorrow: How to Recognize Teen Dating Violence 



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