Helping Kids Cope with Domestic Violence

When there is domestic violence between a couple and there are children, the whole family is involved in the abuse. It does not matter who is the abuser and who is the abused, the issue here is that where there are children involved they see, hear and feel it all. It is difficult for an abused parent to protect the children from the effects of the abuse, even if the the abuse is conducted at night when the children are in bed, the noise of crashing furniture and shouting will rouse even the dead.

A child may wander into the room where they will see one parent hurting the other. The abuser may stop in their tracks on seeing their child, or they may not. The abused may make light of the situation and put on a normal voice and tell the child to go to bed and not to worry, as they are just play-fighting. All this does not help the child.

What children see, they imitate, especially if this is what they have seen since young. As they grow older they learn to understand that it is not right for Daddy to punch Mummy, or Mummy to call Daddy vile names. Children living in a household where domestic violence is the norm, become either hypervilligent, making sure that they don’t create any added stress to provoke an erruption, or become very angry and disruptive themselves.

If you are the abused parent and want to end this cycle of abuse and save your children from the effects of witnessing the violence, the quickest way to undo the damage is to leave the relationship. This is not as easy as it sounds and victims of domestic violence have not only their teeth knocked out of their mouth but their self-esteem out of their being.

There are organisations that help women re-gain their self-esteem and if you are a man being abused there are also organisations that can help. Children need the love and protection of parents/carers who feel loved and protected themselves. If the parents feel vulnerable they are not in the best position to help their children.

Domestic violence can isolate victims from family and friends. If you are a relative or friend of a victim or even an abuser, you can help put some normality into the children’s lives by offering to take the children to the park, or have them round for a few hours. This may not be welcomed by the abuser it may even be seen as interfering but be persistent, find ways to be in the children’s lives.

Teachers may not have the time in class to notice each child and their behaviour. If a teacher does notice that there is something amiss with little Joe, find the time to ask him what is troubling him. There are family support workers, mentors, and other support networks in place that can all contribute to children of domestic violence households.

Education and information at a young age can help children learn that domestic violence is not the norm. Also it gives children a voice and a reassurrance that there is support out there if they need to speak to someone about what is happening at home in confidence, for example, the organisations, Childline and the Samaritans.