If you're an abused parent, your child may have witnessed your abuse many times. This is one reason why you must seek help both for you and your child. Our parenting expert, social worker, and author, Carolyn Healy, is here to share what you need to know. Let's listen to her share the problem and some solutions.
What happens in the minds and hearts of the 15.3 million children who witness domestic violence in their own homes every year? A vast array of physical, psychological, emotional, and behavioral effects has been well-documented. Let’s choose just two to explore.
First, children living with domestic violence hear a call to grow up too fast. They worry about what is going on at home when they are not there. The only way to preserve their safety may be to try to fix the problems themselves, since the adults are not.
They may try to become the peacemaker in the family, soothing, distracting, even acting up themselves to draw attention away from the abuser-victim dynamic. If they are also being abused themselves, they may retreat out of fear. Some children set into the fray themselves and try becoming the hero who finally stops the violence, putting themselves at further risk.
To accomplish all of this, they develop radar for danger. Instead of mindlessly playing video games after school like their friends do, they wait for the door to open, so that they can measure the potential for trouble.
Second, consider the emotional toll. Children feel guilty because they fancy that they cause the abuse by not being good enough kids, and/or by not stopping it. They are on edge, startling easily. They learn not to express themselves lest they kick off an episode of abuse.
They may also learn to tune out because what is in front of them is so overwhelming. They can get caught up in blame, which is often directed at the abused parent (usually but not always the mother). The confusion of love and fear and anger is more than a child is equipped to handle.
What do these children need? They need first for it to stop. Anyone who is aware of such violence can act, by calling the local domestic violence hotline for information on how to safely help. Ideally, the abused parent can connect with that agency for services to heal and to learn how to create a safe household for her children.
They also need to be heard. Even if nothing changes in the home, there are many ways that others in the community can help. Children need ongoing loving and intentional support to heal from this trauma. Even one stalwart adult, a teacher, or friend’s parent, or counselor, can make the difference.
Are you shocked that 15.3 million children witness domestic violence in their own homes every year? I like how Carolyn Healy, my friend and fellow social worker who is involved with a domestic violence agency, shared the problem and possible solutions. You can connect with Carolyn at www.wavesofgrief.com
The abuser creates isolation and silence. Children need to hear a voice that says, “This isn’t normal. You don’t deserve this. We can help.”
Jean Tracy, MSS
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