Parents of Children

Children having a picnic

Children can be survivors too

Domestic violence affects every family member, and it’s important to remember that children of domestic violence survivors are survivors, too. As many as 60% of abusive adults also abuse children in the household.1

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 children heal and grow in healthy ways by making them feel safe and talking with them about their fears.

Children often see and hear more than we may be aware of, but they don’t always understand what is happening or why. Every child’s reaction to domestic violence is different, but they may experience some of the following feelings and behaviors:

Feelings:

  • 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.

Behaviors:

  • Harming themselves or others.
  • Chronic pain or re-occurring health problems.
  • Difficulty with boundaries.
  • Acting out violence while playing.
  • Regressive behavior.

Children and youth are particularly vulnerable to trauma that results from witnessing or experiencing domestic violence because their brains are still developing. As a parent or caretaker, you can help children develop healthy relationships and learn healthy behaviors by talking about topics such as mutual respect, setting appropriate boundaries, and communication skills.

Talk to your kids

Talking to children 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 not sure what to say or how to approach children about the violence they’ve witnessed, consider reading them one of these books.