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Warning signs for parents of teens in possibly abusive relationships

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PHOENIX — February is typically a month associated with love, especially around Valentine’s Day.

But several advocacy groups are reminding parents to keep an eye on their teenagers’ romantic relationships, as February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Donna Bartos, with Phoenix-based Bloom 365, said some warning signs are bigger than others.

“[Your child] may often make excuses for their dating partner,” she said. “They start detaching from their friends. They start detaching from family activities and functions.”

Other signs, according to Love Is Respect, include unexplained marks or bruises, your child changing how they dress or something drastic, such as animal abuse.

Bartos said open-ended questions work best with teens, who may resent what they see as parental intrusion into their love lives.

“’Do you feel like you’re respected?’ ‘Do you feel like you can make choices together?’ ‘Hey, how’s it going?’”

If you suspect your child is being physically abused – or if they confirm it – Bartos said it’s important to have a safety plan in place and contact police about restraining order options.

“That’s when all bets are off,” she said. “It’s not talking about is this relationship healthy or unhealthy. It’s talking about this relationship is a risky one where my teen could be seriously harmed or even killed.”

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