About pre-teen and teenage violence in the home
Pre-teen and teenage violence in the home is when a child or young person harms, threatens or abuses a parent, sibling or other family member. It includes:
- verbal abuse
- emotional abuse
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse and sexual assault
- intimidation and coercion
- destruction of property
- demands for money
- threats of harm.
If your family is experiencing teenage violence in your home, it can affect your safety and wellbeing. It can also affect your child’s development and wellbeing, now and in the future. If your teenage child is using violence, it’s important to take it seriously and get support. Early support can help your child stop using violence.
When to be concerned about pre-teen and teenage behaviour
It’s common for pre-teens and teenagers to behave disrespectfully. This is often part of growth and development in adolescence. It’s also natural and healthy for there to be disagreements between parents and teenagers.
But sometimes disrespectful behaviour and disagreements tip over into abusive or violent behaviour that affects your family’s feelings of safety and wellbeing. This is when teenage behaviour becomes cause for concern.
Concerning behaviour includes the following:
- Verbal or emotional abuse – this might include insulting family members or calling them names, putting family members down, threatening to hurt family members or threatening to damage family members’ property. You might be very concerned if it’s happening a lot or getting worse.
- Physical violence or property damage – this might include hitting, pushing, punching or strangling a family member, damaging property or breaking items of special importance to other family members.
- Behaviour that affects your family’s daily life, relationships or feelings of safety – this might include intimidating body language or any other behaviour that makes you or another family member feel frightened or threatened.
Professional support for pre-teens and teenagers who use violence
If your pre-teen or teenage child uses violence in your home, your child needs support from professionals.
It’s best to look for professionals who have expertise and specialised training in addressing teenage violence in the home. These professionals can assess your child’s behaviour and experiences. They can also develop a treatment or support plan to address the behaviour.
If you’re not sure where to get support, start by seeing your GP. They can refer your child to:
- a specialised counselling, child and family support or youth service
- a psychologist
- another professional like a psychiatrist, social worker or counsellor.
It can be a good idea to talk to the GP or other health professional on your own at first. When you’ve identified support options for your child, you could talk with your child about them if you feel safe to do so.
When you speak to your GP or another professional, it’s important to give them as much information as you can. The more the professional knows about your child’s behaviour, your child’s life and your family situation, the easier it will be for the professional to identify the right support for your child and family. This support might involve you and your family as well as your child.
Encouraging pre-teens and teenagers to accept professional support
Some teenagers will be open to talking about support for their violent behaviour. Other teenagers might be reluctant to discuss or acknowledge the issue or see a professional.
If your child is reluctant, here are some ways to encourage them to see a professional:
- Explain why you think seeing someone might be a good idea. For example, you could say it might help your child to talk with someone outside the family who’s good at helping young people.
- Give your child information about services and how they can help.
- Explain that the health professional or support service won’t judge your child or tell them what to do but will help them find solutions to problems.
- Explain that seeing a professional isn’t a punishment and that you’re not suggesting this because you’re angry. You just want to help.
- Explain that you’ll help your child to make an appointment or will make one for them, but that you expect them to go to it.
- Explain that you’re going to seek help yourself about your family’s situation.
- Ask a trusted family member or friend to talk with your child about it.
It’s important not to trick your child into seeing a professional – for example, by telling your child you’re taking them to the GP when you’re actually taking them to see a psychologist about their violent behaviour. This can damage the trust between you and your child.
Pre-teens and teenagers who use violence: support needs
Teenagers who use violence often also have other support needs. For example, some teenagers who use violence need support because they have:
- present or past experiences of family violence
- present or past experiences of physical or sexual abuse
- present or past experiences of other forms of trauma
- mental health problems like an anxiety disorder or depression
- conditions like autism or other forms of neurodiversity
- disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder
- learning difficulties or disorders
- problems with alcohol or other drug use
- difficulty with regulating their behaviour and reactions, managing emotions or handling conflict.
Supportive and close family relationships give your child emotional support and a sense of safety. They can also protect your child from risky behaviour like alcohol and other drug use and problems like depression.