Kids can be survivors too.
Domestic violence affects every family member, and it’s important to remember that kids of domestic violence survivors are survivors, too. As many as 60% of abusive adults also abuse children in the household.
When children witness violence in the home, they are at greater risk of growing up to repeat the cycle of violence. Family and friends can help kids heal and grow in healthy ways by making them feel safe and talking with them about their fears.
Kids often see and hear more than we may be aware of, but they don’t always understand what is happening or why. Every kid’s reaction to domestic violence is different, but they may experience some of the following:
- Powerless because they can’t stop the violence.
- Confused because the abuse they’ve seen or heard doesn’t make sense to them.
- Angry because it shouldn’t be happening, and they don’t understand it.
- Ashamed because they think they’ve done something wrong.
- Afraid because they may be hurt, they may lose someone they love, or others may find out.
- Alone because they think it’s happening only to them.
- Harming themselves or others.
- Chronic pain or re-occurring health problems.
- Difficulty with boundaries.
- Acting out violence while playing.
- Regressive behavior.
Kids and young people are particularly vulnerable to trauma resulting from witnessing or experiencing domestic violence because their brains are still developing. As a parent or caregiver, you can help kids develop healthy relationships and learn healthy behaviors by talking about mutual respect, setting appropriate boundaries, and communication skills.
Talk to your kids
Talking to kids about domestic violence early and often can help them learn that:
- The violence is not okay.
- It’s okay to talk about what they’ve experienced.
- Violence and abuse is not their fault, and they should not blame themselves.
- It is okay to talk about their feelings openly and honestly.
If you’re unsure what to say or how to approach children about the violence they’ve witnessed, consider reading them one of these books.