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Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
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Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

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The Legal Corner: The Legal Corner: Ending Domestic Abuse Part II – talking to your children

October 19, 2010

Ending domestic abuse is a daunting proposition for a variety of reasons including that domestic abuse usually occurs behind closed doors, the victims often do not want to come forward even in extremely volatile situations, and domestic abuse is cyclical in that the children of abusers and victims often become abusers or victims themselves. However, if parents, teachers and/or friends speak to teens (and even younger children) about healthy and unhealthy relationship, it will go a long way toward keeping them out of abusive relationships and ending domestic abuse.
Talking to your teen about the differences between healthy and abusive relationships may be awkward. Your teen will likely roll his or her eyes when you attempt to broach the subject. But even if your teen seems non-responsive, rude, or uninterested, he or she will hear, and more importantly, internalize what you say. According to a wide variety of experts, just getting the conversation started is extremely important. Hopefully, your child will be responsive and you will have a dialogue. However, even if your child does not engage in a lengthy conversation, you will show your child that you are there for support or questions in the future and you may answer questions that your child is embarrassed or afraid to ask.
Only you know the best way to approach your child about this topic, but I will list some suggestions. These suggestions are by no means the only way to handle this subject.
When you sit down to talk with your child, make sure that you are in a quiet place at a convenient time when neither of you feel rushed to end the conversation. There are many ways to open up the conversation, but it is very important that you are open and honest with your child. You may start the conversation by admitting that it is a little awkward for you both but that you think that it is important to have this talk. By approaching your teen in an honest and caring way, you will let him or her know you are on their side – something that teenagers often struggle with parents about.
You can tell your child that you recognize that he or she is getting older and getting much closer to adulthood and that you want to talk about types of relationships that your child will have in the future or may be having now. You can ask your child questions such as: Are any of your friends dating? What are their relationships like? What would you like in a relationship? Have you witnessed emotional or physical abuse among friends or at school? Do you know what you would do if you witnessed or experienced abuse? You should reinforce the idea that dating and friendship relationships should be enjoyable and that they always have the right to refuse to do something that they do not want to do. If you feel that your child may be in an unhealthy relationship, be supportive so they understand you are there to help.
Additionally, you can use examples from a book or a television show to open up the conversation. To the extent possible, you should encourage your child to speak and ask questions. If your child is willing to open up, he or she may say some things that surprise you or alarm you. However, it is very important that you encourage an open dialogue both at present and in the future. This does not and should not be a one-time conversation.
This is a very challenging article to write because there are a wide variety of opinions on how a relationship conversation with your teen should go. Moreover, there is no one best way to approach this subject and only you know how to best get the conversation started with your child. Despite the wide gulf of differing opinions on how to speak to children about healthy and abusive relationships, there is one point on which virtually every expert agrees. That is: have the conversation. Whether your conversation with your teen opens up new and powerful lines of communication or whether your teen grunts and walks away, you will have succeeded. You will show that you want to be there if he or she needs you in the future. You will show it is important to you (and to your child) that your child has healthy relationships. You will show your child that you care. Your child will appreciate this conversation long after you have it, even if they may not seem to appreciate it at the moment.
For more information about talking to your children about healthy and unhealthy relationships, you can visit Starting Point’s website at /www.startingpointnh.org or call the organization at 447-2494. You can also search some of the following sites: www.teensagainstabuse.org; www.cdc.gov/features/chooserespect/; www.aboutourkids.org/files/articles/june.pdf; and http://www.loveisrespect.org/. There are many more resources in libraries and on the internet that address this topic. Of course, feel free to email me or call with any follow up questions as well. Talking to children about healthy and unhealthy relationships is likely the most effective long term solution to ending domestic abuse.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

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By: Edward D. Alkalay