Hopefully, domestic violence isn't an issue for you family, but if it is, domestic violence has long-lasting emotional scars for children. Children who come from violent homes have permanent and lasting wounds that are difficult for them to overcome. They may seem like ordinary children on the outside, but on the inside they have deep scars that take time to heal.
Whether you've left a violent relationship or you've taken a child into your home that's lived with domestic violence, helping children overcome domestic violence is difficult. It's important to understand children who have been through domestic violence must be treated differently than children who haven't. You must be very careful with your actions to help these children.
Understanding Domestic Violence
There are an estimated 3 million children who witness domestic violence every year, and as a result, they end up physically and emotionally damaged. Children who witness domestic violence react differently, but most suffer from social, psychological, emotional or behavioral problems.
Signs of domestic violence in children:
- Grief for family and personal losses.
- Shame, guilt, and self blame.
- Confusion about conflicting feelings toward parents.
- Fear of abandonment, or expressing emotions, the unknown or personal injury.
- Depression and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.
- Acting out or withdrawing.
- Aggressive or passive.
- Refusing to go to school.
- Care taking; acting as a parent substitute.
- Lying to avoid confrontation.
- Rigid defenses.
- Excessive attention seeking.
- Bedwetting and nightmares.
- Out of control behavior.
- Reduced intellectual competency.
- Manipulation, dependency, mood swings.
- Isolation from friends and relatives.
- Stormy relationships.
- Difficulty in trusting, especially adults.
- Poor anger management and problem solving skills.
- Excessive social involvement to avoid home.
- Passivity with peers or bullying.
- Engaged in exploitative relationships as perpetrator or victim.
- Somatic complaints, headaches and stomachaches.
- Nervous, anxious, short attention span.
- Tired and lethargic.
- Frequently ill.
- Poor personal hygiene.
- Regression in development.
- High risk play.
- Self abuse
Helping children overcome domestic violence is difficult and takes time. The biggest struggle is allowing children to feel as though they are completely safe and can trust adults. It's important to listen to the child and to give them the love, respect and space they need to feel comfortable in a domestic violence free home. Children need to know they are loved and well cared for, and are free to express their emotions, ideas and opinions.
Many children have difficulty with anger and violence because of what they have witnessed. They have learned when you become angry it's ok to become violent. You have to undo this teaching by showing them to communicate when they get angry, not become violent.
It's very hard helping children overcome domestic violence because they don't think the same way other children do who haven't been exposed to violence. You must put yourself in the child's shoes before reacting to any situation. In some cases, professional help may be the best option for helping you and the child move forward as a healthy and happy family.
Information courtesy of http://www.acadv.org/children.html