Parents of Children

Domestic violence affects every member of a family, and it’s important to remember that children of domestic violence survivors are survivors, too.

Children having a picnic

As many as 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.

Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. However, a positive relationship with a non-violent parent is an important factor in helping children grow in healthy ways, despite their experiences.

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.
  • Regressing in 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, equality, open communication and setting appropriate boundaries.

Talking to children about domestic violence early and often can help them learn that:

  • The violence is not okay.
  • Talking about the violence they’ve experienced is okay.
  • The 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 your children or other children in your life about the violence they’ve witnessed, consider reading them one of these books to help them understand.