In childhood we learn different ways of relating to others from our parents, siblings, or any other important person in our lives. Later we repeat those roles over and over again, even the ones that are harmful. However, we can free ourselves from those roles.
How does domestic violence affect children?
Children are very upset when they see one parent abusing or attacking the other. They usually show signs of great distress. Younger children often develop anxiety, complain of tummy aches, or begin to wet the bed. They may find it difficult to sleep, have temper outbursts, and begin to act like they are much smaller than they are.
Older children seem to express their pain in a more “outward” way, becoming more aggressive and disobedient. They can sometimes be violent in trying to solve their problems, as if they learned this behavior from the way adults behave at home. Likewise, it is common to start playing truant and consuming alcohol and drugs.
Girls are more likely to hold back the heartbreak. They may isolate themselves from other people and develop anxiety or depression problems, think bad about themselves, or complain of physical symptoms. Girls are more likely to develop an eating disorder , overdose on medications, or injure themselves.
Children with these problems often begin to do worse in school. They can also develop symptoms of PTSD, such as having nightmares and being easily skittish.
What Causes Emotional Harm in Children?
- If they are abused.
- When they see others in their family being abused.
- If they have to defend someone in the family or are reprimanded to join in the abuse.
- When they are not being cared for properly, especially if the mother becomes depressed or starts drinking too much.
- When other people avoid the family because they know what is going on; children can lose friends and find it difficult to make new ones.
- If they lose a parent due to separation or even death.
- If the mother leaves home with them. They may then have financial problems, have to move, lose friends, and have to start a new school.
- When parents separate and arguments get worse, children are used as bargaining chips in legal battles over money and contact with them.
Are there any long-term effects?
Children who have witnessed violence are more likely to be abusers or victims of further abuse. Children tend to copy the behavior of their parents and learn from them to be violent towards women. Girls learn from their mothers that violence is inevitable and something they have to live with.
Children do not always repeat the same pattern of behavior when they grow up. Many children do not like what they see and try very hard not to repeat the mistakes of their parents. Even so, children from violent families often grow up feeling anxious and depressed and have difficulty having relationships with other people .
Who can help?
Everyone in the community needs to know that such violence is frequent and wrong. People need to recognize how harmful violence is to children. This can help victims of domestic violence realize that this should not be happening and that they can ask for help. Posters in public community centers, schools and health centers can provide information and guidance on how to act.
Professionals who work with children, including doctors, nurses, teachers, psychologists and social workers, should find out where they can find advice and help, both locally and nationally. Battered women’s associations and other national organizations can provide information and support.
Legal advice is often important. Laws are being modified to facilitate restraining orders for the alleged abuser and harasser and the woman must now not leave her home if she does not want to.
Should it be reported?
If a woman confesses that this is happening to her it is important to help her change her situation, if she decides to do so. It does not seem like a great help, however it can allow the woman to have a sense of greater control in her life, that she has alternatives to that situation. If someone tells you what is happening to him, do not tell the man involved what she has told you. This can put women and children in great danger.
Who can help mothers and children later?
Help is needed frequently for a long time. Survival takes priority, being safe from the abuser, a place to live, and money to live with.
The children can then make contact appointments with the school and attend later. The mother is likely to be very stressed and needs support, psychotherapy, or treatment for depression or anxiety.
Children who show difficulty in school often need extra help from their teachers. If children continue to have emotional problems, it is necessary to go to a child and adolescent mental health center.
Let us set a good example for our children so that they do not repeat patterns of violence. If you are aware that you are an abuser at any level, break the chain so that your children or the children who can follow your examples, are potentially not the same when they grow up and thus we can create a better society.
This video contains clear examples of the responsibility we have to act and give examples to the youngest.