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The Mālama Ola Minute is a series brought to you by the Kamehameha Schools Mālama Ola Division to increase awareness, promote discussion, and offer tools to improve the physical and mental health of our haumāna.

Mālama Ola Minute – Teen dating violence: Tips for parents

Feb. 9, 2022

Romantic relationships are a common part of adolescence. However, not all relationships are healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one in four adolescents report verbal, emotional, physical or sexual dating violence each year.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Teens who experience this may be more at risk for depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and/or substance abuse. Take a moment to learn what teen dating violence is, how to recognize its warning signs, what to do if you suspect your child is in an abusive relationship, and how we can work to prevent teen dating violence as a community.

What is teen dating violence?
The National Center for Victims of Crime define Dating Violence as “controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. Teen dating violence can be any one, or a combination, of the following:

Physical abuse is hitting, kicking, shoving, pulling (hair or body part), hurting someone with an object or weapon, and/or breaking their things on purpose.

Emotional abuse includes manipulative behaviors (i.e. name-calling, shaming), terrorizing or gaslighting, intentionally keeping them away from friends and family, threatening them and stalking.

Sexual abuse is forcing someone into a sexual act when they do not or cannot consent.

Technological abuse is the use of technology to harass, threaten, or monitor someone. This can look like posting unwanted pictures or information, impersonating someone, going through their phone without consent or using social media/GPS to track their location.

Financial abuse is stealing or constantly asking the person for money without paying them back.

Warning Signs:
Following are the most common warning signs of teen dating violence:

  • Sudden changes in mood or personality
  • Avoiding friends and family
  • Sudden changes in appearance, diet, or sleeping habits
  • Failing grades or dropping out of school activities
  • Becoming secretive or withdrawn
  • Unexplained bruises, scratches, or marks
  • Apologizing and/or making excuses for the dating partner
  • Constantly checking cell phone or email. Responding immediately when contacted by dating partner. Getting upset when unable to respond.

If you suspect your child is in an abusive relationship:

  • Give your teen a chance to talk. Listen nonjudgmentally to the whole story.
  • Tell your child that you are there to help keep them safe.
  • If your teen does not want to talk with you, help find another trusted person for your child to talk with such as a counselor or community mental health professional.
  • Focus on your child’s safety and self-esteem. Bullying can leave a person feeling vulnerable or insecure, help your child work on their assertiveness and praise their resilience.
  • Talk about healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Create a “no secrets” policy and develop a safety plan with your teen so they know who to contact if they’re in an unsafe situation.

Preventing Teen Dating Violence
Start talking to your teen about healthy relationships well before they start dating. Provide your child with examples of healthy relationships in your own life. Point out healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors in television, movies, and music and take an opportunity to talk to your child about what is appropriate and what is not.

It is never too early to teach your children to give and receive respect. No one has the right to make your child feel bad about themselves. No one has the right to insult, control, or hit another. Always keep the lines of communication open. Encourage your child to come to you. Support your child’s honesty and be ready to help. You do not have to navigate this alone. If you are concerned for your child, please reach out to a community or school professional.


Sex Abuse Treatment Center
24-hour Hotline: (808) 524-7273

Domestic Violence Action Center
Teen Alert
Program Helpline
O ‘ahu helpline: (808) 531-3771
Toll-free helpline: (800) 690-6200

If you have an emergency, please call 911.


Dating Matters
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sexual Violence and Dating
Teen Link Hawaii

Love is Respect
National Domestic Violence Hotline

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