Helping Children Cope
Children who have been exposed to domestic violence, or who are currently suffering from living with domestic violence in their home need to be heard, listened to, and believed. They need to know that there are adults who will protect them, stand up for them, and keep them out of harm's way. Adults they can trust. Domestic violence, whether physical, emotional, or psychological can seriously affect children in numerous ways, with both long and short term problems. However, there are coping skills that can help children learn to better cope with the onslaught of these negative effects. These coping techniques can also teach children how to vent and express their emotions in a positive manner, while learning how to better understand all of what they are feeling.
"Researchers used the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Core Data Set to examine the mental-health histories of 5,616 children who’d suffered some form of abuse. Here’s what they found, according to thepress release:
Children who had been psychologically abused suffered from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and suicidality at the same rate and, in some cases, at a greater rate than children who were physically or sexually abused. Among the three types of abuse, psychological maltreatment was most strongly associated with depression, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, attachment problems and substance abuse." [http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/10/emotional-abuse-can-be-as-damaging-as-sex-abuse.html?mid=facebook_nymag]
Here are a few ways children can be helped, supported and encouraged: 1. Encourage the child to talk about the abuse and violence. Let them know they are safe in doing so. Remind them that they are important and loved, and have the right to feel and be safe. Also share with the child your feelings about domestic violence, and how nobody has the right to hurt anybody else, but without burdening the child with emotions and problems they are not equipped too handle. 2. Make sure the child understands clearly that they are not responsible for the violence occurring, nor are they in the position to control or fix the violence. They have a right to be treated with respect, kindness, and patience. 3. Explain to the child that they are nor responsible for making their family whole or happy, but what they are feeling inside, and the reactions they have about the violence is okay. Remind them that they have a right to their feelings and reactions to the violence, and that when they grow up, they can choose to never be violent. 4. Try to find a trained domestic violence counselor for the child to speak with, and/or encourage the child to join social groups or organizations which will help promote feelings of belonging and self-esteem. Remind them child that they have the right to develop their own skills and talents and they don't have to worry about being perfect-ever. 5. Encourage and motivate the child to find positive activities to participate in, such as music, sports, reading and writing, games, running- anything to help divert the attention away from the abuse and redirect her/his energy towards positive and creative outlets. 6. Writing, drawing, and journaling can be a very useful tool to help a child communicate their feelings, thoughts and fears about domestic violence. Keeping a diary, writing poetry, perhaps a story or letter can also help a child express and vent their feelings and opinions in positive, healthy ways. 7. Children need your support after experiencing domestic violence. They have the right to be angry about the abuse, and they have the absolute right NOT to ever be abused. 8. Encourage your schools in your area to provide information about domestic violence, training for their staff and teachers to recognize the signs, and put into place those programs that work in alliance with the domestic violence shelters and agencies in the area. Cooperation and a strong team effort can go a long way in protecting all children. 9. Take the time to sit down and discuss the concept of "good" verses "bad" secret keeping and teach the child how to tell the difference. 10. Set the example. Provide a safe environment for all children. Model positive behavior. Be loving, kind, giving and hopeful.
Let's all help keep our children safe.