Coping is of course difficult for any survivor of domestic violence, but the situation can be even more challenging when children are in the household. If you’re a parent who is encountering domestic abuse, here are some of the ways you can help your children.
The effects of domestic violence on children
Let’s first take a look at the harmful effects that children can experience from being in a home where there’s domestic violence.
Children can experience both short and long term emotional, behavioural, and cognitive effects from witnessing domestic violence. Responses to trauma are different for every child, so some may not show any negative effects, but they will still be affected nevertheless.
The most common responses in children who witness domestic violence include but are not limited to:
- Becoming depressed
- Becoming anxious
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Having temper tantrums
- Displaying aggressive behaviour
- Complaining of physical symptoms like stomach aches
- Being easily startled
- Behaving as though they are younger than they actually are
- Having a low sense of self-worth.
- Having nightmares
As you can see, both the physical and psychological effects of domestic violence on children can be wide-ranging. Also, some studies suggest the child impact of domestic violence can result in some children growing up to become violent themselves.
How to help your children
If you’re not yet in a position to leave your abusive partner, and even start a claim for compensation for the domestic violence, similar to making a personal injury claim with a law firm like Kenny Perez Law, you can still take action to help your children.
You may have tried to shield them from what is going on as much as possible, but if your kids are feeling powerless, angry and confused, or displaying other negative signs, you should talk to your children about what’s happening.
First off, try to be honest with your children about the situation but do so in a non-frightening way and in an age-appropriate manner. You should then let your children talk about what they’re feeling and make sure you actively listen to what they have to say.
It could help to do an activity together to make it easier for your kids to open up. Some children need to be away from the violent environment before they will begin talking about their feelings.
You should reassure your children that the situation isn’t their fault. Tell them that they have done nothing wrong and that they’re not responsible for adult behaviour. Also, explain that domestic violence is wrong and it never solves problems.
Continually praise your children and give them attention and affection to help offset the negative situation. The more you can boost their self-esteem, the better.
You can also get support for yourself and for your children. Get in touch with a confidential domestic abuse support service. You can then get advice on how to deal with domestic violence yourself and how to best support your children.
Today, there are various online sites for children who live with domestic violence. The sites have information, activities, and stories to help children deal with their situations.
Tell your children where they can get more information. Also, make sure they know how to call emergency services in emergency situations, but make it clear that they aren’t responsible for protecting you if you’re being attacked. It’s important they go to a safe place when domestic violence is occurring.
At the end of the day, if you’re a survivor of domestic violence, the more you have an open dialogue with your children and give them the information and support they need, the better.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and well-being.