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This is not ok - This is control - Guidance for parents

Concerned about a young person?

Young people and teenagers may not have the experience of healthy relationships to always know what is and isn’t normal behaviour.

It’s important that we talk about what is acceptable behaviour in relationships with our children and the young people we are close to, within our family, our friends, or those we support in our role in education or other support services. We need to make them aware of what healthy relationships and love look like and how to recognise abuse.

Trying to control someone through threats and fear is coercive control and is at the heart of domestic abuse.

If you are a parent, guardian or close to a young person, you need to understand and look out for the signs of coercive control.

It can be hard to spot the signs and know the difference between being caring and controlling; you’ll need to look at patterns of behaviour. 

A young person's partner could be controlling them if they are:

  • obsessively texting, calling and emailing 
  • isolating them from friends and family
  • always wanting to see and talk to them
  • stopping them from working or going to school/college/university
  • getting upset when they text or hang out with other people
  • accusing them of flirting or cheating all the time
  • pressuring them to do things they don't want to do such as engaging in sexual activity before they're ready, or share naked photos online
  • monitoring or controlling their social media accounts 
  • tracking their location via GPS
  • rushing the relationship’s pace
  • saying things like “If you loved me you would…”

Knowing if a young person is in an unhealthy relationship 

  • They withdraw from family time or family engagements 
  • They try and excuse their partners behaviour 
  • You notice a sudden change in their behaviour or appearance 
  • You notice unexplained marks or bruises 
  • They become concerned or anxious if they are not responding to messages immediately 
  • They express fear about the way their partner might react in a given situation

Watch our campaign film to see examples of controlling behaviour:

How to support a young person:

For your child

  • Keep an honest, open and close relationship with your child – let them know they can talk to you about anything
  • Teach them how to handle harmful situations – instilling confidence is one of best ways to prevent them getting into an abusive relationship
  • Set a positive example by removing yourself from destructive and abusive relationships
  • Encourage your child to build a strong support system of people they can trust
  • Build your child's self-esteem by praising them for things they do well, teaching them to be realistic about body image and airbrushed celebrities and stressing that no one who cares about them should put them down.
  • Make sure your child understands that they have the right to say no and that anyone who cares about them should respect that
  • Make sure they know it is never their fault. It is NEVER the victim’s fault
  • It’s important they know you’re not judging them; that you love them unconditionally and know they can always come to you for support
  • Increase your own understanding of unhealthy relationships, know the signs and how they impact your child. Don’t be afraid to tell them you’re worried and that you’ll be there when they’re ready to talk
  • Keep a journal/log of any concerning behaviour/patterns of abuse 
  • Be prepared;  have appropriate support agency and helpline details to hand, know your local services 
  • Acknowledge it may be difficult for your child to speak to you about unhealthy relationships, where necessary offer them another appropriate adult to talk to (auntie, uncle, family friend, teacher, youth worker, support worker)  
  • Understand that leaving an abusive relationship can be a very dangerous time. Don’t force this, plan it with support of a specialist agency or the Live Fear Free helpline
  • If at risk of immediate danger or harm, call the police

We can all:

  • build a young person's self-esteem by praising them for things they do well, teaching them to be realistic about body image and airbrushed celebrities and stressing that no one who cares about them should put them down;
  • make sure they understand that they have the right to say no and that anyone who cares about them should respect that; and
  • make sure they know it is never their fault. It is NEVER the victim’s fault.

Coercive control is a criminal offence. If you, a family member or a friend, are in a controlling relationship, you can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline for 24 hour free advice and support on via live web chat or calling 0808 8010 800.

Talk to us now

If you or someone you know is a victim of coercive control, we can give you the advice you need.

Get in touch with Live Fear Free advisors free of charge by phone, online chat, text or email.

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