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How To Help Your Teenager Break Free From A Controlling Relationship

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Mom with teenager looking out over the water

As a parent, you have all the power and support of society and the law to help your child under all circumstances — including when they are having relationship troubles. This is especially true when your child is still a teenager and feels stuck between a wall and a hard place.

The teenage years are a time when a child is working on being an adult but is not an adult yet. Even adults need help with relationships and might go see a therapist if their parents, family or friends are not able or available. 

But when it comes to helping a teenager, as a parent it's up to you to lend a helping hand. This is especially true when it comes to helping your child walk away from a controlling, abusive relationship. But how can you do it without alienating or hurting your offspring?

How Can You Help Your Teenager Become Free From A Controlling Relationship?

The answer depends on your past and current relationship with your child. But it also depends on the underlying cause of the controlling and abusive relationship your teenager is in.

RELATED: How To Confront Control Issues In Your Relationship

Why does a teenager fall into a controlling relationship?

Before we get deeper into the topic, let’s explore the reasons for anyone to be in a relationship, how and why the relationship turns sour, and then why anyone, including a teenager, stays in it.

Because without understanding the cause it's nearly impossible to get to the solution.

As a human, you are a social creature. You need your tribe to survive, live and thrive. Some relations are casual, some more intimate and one of them may be an exclusive relationship.

Now when this exclusive relationship turns into a control game of manipulation and abuse it’s a game-changer in which both the abuser and the abused are locked.

And if the abused happens to be your teenage child, your world comes to a near crumbling halt. While you want to help your child, your teenager either will shun you or tell you that they are being preyed upon and do not know how to get out.

RELATED: If He Does These 7 Things, Stop: He's Trying To Control You

What can you do for a teenager in an abusive relationship?

Your teenager is pubescent, raging with hormones, feels incomplete in themselves, and somehow believes “this other person” has what they don’t, and together they will be complete.

Often they aren’t even thinking of being in a relationship but because someone else is they feel they must too. Or, they are promised something they never experienced before, and now they are hooked.

Every relationship is a give and take. Your teenager might feel free from their parents telling them what to do and now have landed in a relationship where they are told what to do.

If your child feels that you were not there for them at any time, they will go find someone who will replace you in their life. You might have been there all the time, but it’s your child’s perception of your presence in their life.

Your child may also feel that you are always there — but they crave independence.

This craving lands them in a relationship where the other person is there all the time and they can’t free themselves of it.

A true understanding of the cause of the abusive and controlling relationship your teenager is in is crucial in the remedy to get them out of it.

You will need professional help but to what extent you will find out as you begin the process.

If right at the beginning you feel you are not strong enough to do it alone, go find professional help, and together with professional guidance and personal tender love and care, you can turn your teenager's life around.

RELATED: 3 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Controlled In Your Relationship

What does it mean for a teenager to hang on to an abusive relationship?

Your teenager is suffering from an identity crisis. They do not know who they could be without the abusive relationship.

There are a few negative emotions thrown in the mix. For example anger for landing in the relationship, sorrow for being in the abuse, fear of the uncertainties of standing up to the abuse or walking out, guilt from getting into the situation and abandoning their partner in the relationship, and even returning home to you and their peers and having to admit they made a mistake. Also, they feel hurt, pain, and shame from the abuse, and doubt there will ever be an end.

Usually when in an abusive situation, their pride keeps them trapped in it. “I can deal with this” or “I can change this” are two mantras they keep telling themselves. It’s the denial they experience. They find it hard to admit that they are being victimized.

There’s more to it but these are basics for you to understand what’s going on in their teenage-heart-mind.

RELATED: 5 Early Warning Signs Of An Abusive Relationship

3 Ways A Parent Can Help A Teen End An Abusive Relationship

There are a few steps, the first being, that you admit you have a role in your teenager’s current situation, though you never asked them to get into an abusive relationship. No parent does that or wishes that for their child, but somehow we are responsible for the past, present, and future of our child, no matter at what stage of their life they are in.

1. Accept responsibility.

There is great humility in this understanding and acceptance of the situation as it is showing up for your child and you. When you don’t admit your role in your child’s life, you are one hundred percent blaming your teenager for their situation and this will make it harder for them to open up to you and work with you to return to a world without the abuse.

You could start simply by saying “Child, I am sorry for what you are going through and I accept it’s partly my fault too. I love you. Please forgive me. I know you love me too. I forgive you. Let’s work together to make things better.”

2. Ask them to help you help them.

They know more about their situation than you do. So, ask them to help you. “Darling, help me help you. How can we work through this together?” Ask for their advice so they feel empowered to get out of the abuse on their own, with your help, guidance, and active presence.

3. Be patient with them — and with yourself.

Imagine rushing to cure a physical disease — it’s impossible. Similarly, you can’t rush through the healing of any mental challenge or emotional discomfort. Take your time and give them time.

If the doctor yanked a bandage or a plaster cast off your body, you would be in severe pain, wouldn’t you?  Similarly, your teenager is half of the abusive relationship, while their partner is the other half. Slow and steady is the name of the game.

They can get out of it the day they chose to, but to get to the day when they will get out of it, you have to be strong, steady, eas, and graceful.

RELATED: 15 Signs He's Not Caring — He's Just Insanely Controlling

When to seek outside, professional guidance

Every thought you think, every word you speak or write, every action you take is with only one feeling flowing in your veins: “I am helping my child, free themself from the abusive and controlling relationship they are in.” Period!

Imagine, if your teenager had cancer or was in a near-death accident. Would you think, speak or act with any other feeling? Similarly, right now your mission is to help your child survive and walk out of the abuse that’s controlling them.

You have to find it within you to hire professional help for your child while coming out of, and after they have come out of, the abusive relationship. The help will make it easier for you to breathe and have space in your life.

Knowing that you can trust a trained, qualified, experienced professional to provide a neutral environment for your teenager is beneficial for you and your teenager.

Ultimately you are responsible, and a little help will go a long way not only for both of you to heal, but also to help you bond for the future.

You will prevent future recurrence of abuse for your child, and you will be elevated in their mind as an authority figure who has their back.

RELATED: 5 Ways Being A Control Freak Sabotages Your Relationships (And The 3 Behaviors That Cause It)

Keya Murthy, M.S., works as a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Spiritual Life Coach, and Energy Medicine Practitioner at the Ventura Healing Center. She’s a #1 International Best Selling Author and has authored eleven books, one of which is The Book On Happiness: How To Have Peace And Stability As A Working Mom.

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