How can I help my son or daughter if I think they are in an abusive relationship?

You hope that your children would be able to come to you if they have a problem—even if that problem is embarrassing or could make you lose respect for them. But what if you don’t like the way you daughter’s boyfriend grabs her arm, or the way your son’s girlfriend berates him in front of his friends? Should you speak up, or wait for your children to come to you for help?

What Behaviors Make a Relationship Unhealthy?

There are many different warning signs that your child is in abusive relationship—and even one of these signs could be an indicator of violence behind closed doors:

  • Does your child constantly apologize or make excuses for the abuser’s behavior?
  • Has your child ever tried to convince you that the abuser’s threats or verbal attacks are “just a joke?”
  • Does your child assert that the abuser is “not like this at home?”
  • Is your child constantly answering texts or calls from the abuser when they are not together, or always return early from an outing because the abuser wants her home?
  • Is your child no longer involved in the same hobbies, groups, or activities that they used to enjoy?
  • Have your child’s friends come to you with the same concerns?
  • Does the abuser act jealous of other people who are close to your child?
  • Is your child incapable of going places without the abuser coming with him/her?
  • Does your child dress differently in this relationship than in the past?
  • Has the abuser ever had a violent outburst that destroyed your child’s property or broken household objects?

How Should I Handle a Talk With My Child?

No matter how old they get, your sons and daughters will always be children--and as your children, you have a right to protect them from any harm. Talk to them about what you have seen, and make it clear that your only concern is their safety. Avoid assigning blame or passing judgment—you should offer information and give them an easy-to-remember safety plan for an emergency situation.

If someone in your family needs legal protection from an abuser, click the contact link on this page to let us help explain your options to you.

Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
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