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How Domestic Violence Can Hurt Your Parenting

The abuse in your home may be affecting your ability to parent properly. Please look at the list below and ask yourself honestly if this is happening to your family. Manipulation on the part of the abuser may be undermining your self esteem and result in doubting your ability to be a good parent.

  • Does your partner overrule your decisions in regards to the children?
  • Does your partner put you down in front of your children?
  • Does your partner encourage bad behavior from the children towards you?
  • Does your partner refuse to help your children when they are crying or upset?
  • Does your partner blame the children when he is mad at you?
  • Does your partner try to ruin or sabotage your relationship with your children?
  • Does your partner insist the children listen and obey him/her, and not you?
  • Does your partner hit or physically hurt you in front of the children?
  • Do your children ignore your directions?
  • Do your children talk badly to you?
  • Has your partner accused you of being a bad parent?

You have every right to participate in the overall guidance of your children, including:

  • What style of disciple they will experience.
  • What their routines will be.
  • What freedoms they will be permitted.
  • How they are allowed to express their emotions.
  • What people they can spend time with, including your friends and relatives.
  • What schools and religious institutions they will attend.
  • What types of extracurricular activities they can participate in.
  • Deciding how best to help your children flourish.

Children are aware that violence is happening in the home, even when not witnessed. They will be affected by the violence and the unhealthy environment it creates.
Sometimes it may just be best to be calm, honest and sincere about what is happening in the home. You need to talk to your children and explain domestic violence in an age appropriate manner. See the useful links, under children, for some guidance. This may be a good time to discuss a safety plan with your children.

Children

When talking to your children remember to be:

  • Patient
  • Age appropriate and honest
  • Open and listen to their concerns
  • Honest when discussing something so difficult. What scares them the most?
  • Ready to discuss a safety Plan.

After this discussion you may find that your children are far more aware of what is happening in the home.
You may feel enormous guilt about this, but you need to remember you are doing the best you can considering the circumstances.

As a result of your discussion your children should learn:

  • That violence isn’t their fault.
  • That violence is not the way to solve problems.
  • That they are cared for and understood.
  • That it is OK to talk about their feelings.

Children who grow up with violence in the home respond differently. The chart below will give you an idea of different signs children may experience; behavioral, social, emotional and cognitive. These are also indicators that you should seek out a counselor for your child. Contact your local domestic violence agency to find appropriate services.

Infants

Pre-School

School

Adolescents

Behavioral

Being fussy,
decreased responsiveness,
trouble sleeping,
trouble eating,

Aggression,
behavior problems,
yelling, irritability,
trouble sleeping,
bed wetting,
repetitive play in which
disturbing themes are expressed, initiating physical fights, shows cruelty to animals, deliberately destroying others’ property.

Aggression,
acting out, frequent outbursts, disobedience,
bullying others,
frequent bed-wetting,
repetitive play in which
disturbing themes are expressed, initiating physical fights, shows cruelty to animals, deliberately destroying others’ property.

 

Dating violence,
bullying others,
use of drugs or alcohol,
criminal behavior,
running away,
attempting suicide,
inflicting self-harm,
frequent tardiness or absence
from school, activities and work,
early sexual activity, initiating physical fights, shows cruelty to animals, deliberately destroying others’ property. 

Social

Trouble interacting with or
getting along with peers,
isolating themselves from
others,
starting easily and frequently

Fewer and poor quality peer
relations.

Few quality relationships,
dating violence (victim or
perpetrator),
teen pregnancy.

Emotional/
Psychological

Attachment needs not met.

Emotionally withdrawn or
detached,
fear/ anxiety, sadness, worry
PTSD,
Feeling unsafe,
separation anxiety,
trouble eating.

Emotionally withdrawn or
detached,
frequent physical complaints,
fear and anxiety, depression,
separation anxiety
low self-esteem, shame,
PTSD,
emotional responses not
matching situation,
trouble eating,
frequent health complaints.

Emotionally withdrawn or
detached,
substance abuse issues,
thoughts of suicide,
PTSD,
Feeling rage, shame,
unresponsiveness,
frequent health complaints.

Cognitive

Inability to understand.

Self-blame
Difficulty trusting others
Bad dreams
Efforts to avoid thoughts,
feelings, or conversations
associated with the issue
Difficulty concentrating
Lower verbal skills

Self-blame,
distracted, inattentive,
lack of interest in hobbies
or activities,
academic problems,
pro-violent attitude
difficulty trusting others, trusting the wrong people,
bad dreams,
efforts to avoid thoughts,
feelings or conversations
associated with the issue,
difficulty concentrating
lower verbal skills and
reading levels.

Short attention span, difficulty
concentrating,
lower verbal skills,
lack of interest in hobbies or
activities,
pro-violent attitude,
defensiveness,
difficulty trusting others.

Source: Summers, Alicia, M.S., Children’s Exposure to Domestic Violence: A Guide to Research and Resources, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges,
2006, http://www.safestartcenter.org/pdf/childrensexpostoviolence.pdf

Helping your Children:

Even if your children have been exposed to violence in the home, they can still grow to be happy and healthy individuals if they are given encouragement, support and love. Here are some ways to help guide them into emotionally healthy and happy adults:

  • Set clear boundaries: Set age appropriate boundaries with your children and be consistent.
  • Create structure: This is difficult in a home where there is violence, but you can work to develop routine and structure. Children thrive in structured homes, where there are set meal times, play times and bed times. This will create the feeling of safety and help guide them in everyday life.
  • Show affection: Hug, kiss, smile, laugh and show joy with your children; even when you are struggling.
  • Teach your children to communicate in a healthy way: Teach them by example; show them what respect looks like and expect that from them too.
  • Allow your children to grow: Allow your children to develop independence and problem solve when age appropriate.
  • Spend time with your kids: Find fun and safe activities you can do with your family. Show them what a healthy life looks like.
  • Help create self esteem in your child: Find activities, support their interests so your children can see success.
  • Be a positive, non-violent role model for your children: Maintaining safe, reliable interactions with your children can help them develop self-esteem.
  • Let your children know they are capable: Allow your children to have responsibilities and let them know you have confidence in them.
  • Let your children know they are worthy of love: Children need to know you love them and accept them as they are.
  • Listen carefully: What your children say is very important to them. They need to know they have a voice. Let them know you hear them.
  • Encourage your children: Focus on the positive qualities your children show and encourage that behavior.
  • Create a healthy support system for your children: Surround your children with healthy, positive and loving people; this includes their friends and adults.

From the website of Benton Franklin Community Action Committee
http://bfcac.org

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