How Can I Support My Children?
When children see, hear or know about abuse by one parent against the other, they may experience many feelings, thoughts or questions. As a caring and supportive parent, you are the most important person to your child as they try and make sense of what has happened within the family.
Helpful messages for children to hear:
Violence isn’t OK.
It isn’t your fault.
I will do everything I can to help you be safe.
It’s not your job to fix what is wrong in the family.
I want you to tell me how you feel. It’s important, and I can handle it.
It’s OK to have mixed feelings about either or both of your parents.
How denial affects children:
Having a conversation about the violence and abuse you have suffered can be incredibly traumatic and difficult. But staying silent may not support your children in overcoming their experiences and may not enable them to move onto recovery.
Staying silent is like saying; "it's OK that the violence or abuse happened." Denial can affect children in many ways, which is why it is so important to find the right time and the appropriate way to talk to your children about what you have all experienced.
Otherwise what can happen is:
Child learns that violence or abuse is normal
Child is afraid to talk about the abuse
Child is confused and doesn't understand
Learns to deny and not to talk about own feelings
Makes them feel like they are crazy
Makes them feel lonely or isolated from their friends
Learns it's not OK to ask about the abuse or discuss it
Gives children unrealistic beliefs about the causes of violence and abuse
How to talk to children and what to listen out for:
Conversations with children can’t always be planned—sometimes they just happen. The following tips will help you make the most of the conversation whether it’s planned or spontaneous:
Take the lead: when you open the conversation, you’re telling your child it is safe to talk and that they don’t have to be alone with their thoughts and worries.
Open with messages of support, like “I care about you and I will listen to you.
Ask what your child saw or heard or already knows about the troubling events in the home.
Support and acknowledge your children’s feelings, experiences, and their version of the story.
Expect that your children will know more than you think, no matter how young they are. Sometimes when adults assume children are asleep or not paying any attention, they are actually listening to everything. If they are too young to get what’s going on, they may fill in the gaps with their imaginations and end up worrying about something that’s worse than reality.
Let your child know it is always OK to ask you questions. Often the ideas or questions that trouble children are different from the ones that adults think about. Listening to your child’s questions helps you know what is really on their mind.
Talk to your children in a way that’s right for their ages. Use words that you know they understand. Be careful not to talk about adult concerns or at an adult’s level of understanding.
If your child asks a question you’re not ready to answer, you can say, “That’s a really important question. I need some time to think about it and then we can talk again.”
Monitor your own feelings. If you are able to talk calmly and confidently, you convey a sense of security. A calm tone sends the message that you are in charge and capable.
Be alert to signs that your child is ready to end the conversation. Children who have heard enough may get restless or silly, stop listening, or stop asking questions.
Have other adults for your own support so your children are not your only support system. You don’t want to put undue worry or stress on your children.
Be mindful of the age of your child. For younger children, sharing too much of your worries or fears may make them more worried or upset.
More info here
How to talk about the perpetrator:
1. Speak about the perpetrator in a general way. Try to avoid being too specific and going into details about how the abuse made you feel. These conversations are for you to have with your support network, not for your children.
2. Try to avoid "name-calling"- challenge the behaviour, not the person.
3. Your child may still miss or love the perpetrator and may be confused by
feeling this way. (It could be hard for you too) But it will really help your child if he/she is able to express these feelings.
Women's Aid have created this space to help children and young people to understand domestic abuse.
We understand how difficult it is for children to talk about Domestic Abuse. Whether it's happening now or happened in the past.
Phone: 0800 1111 are free and confidential.
Children can also contact Childline online.
Opening hours: Childline can be contacted 24/7.
Young Minds have lots of resources and tips for young people on how to support their mental health and wellbeing. They also have a support page regarding domestic abuse for parents.
Phone: 0808 802 5544 (Parents Helpline)
Opening times: Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm
Offers support to anyone affected by crime; not only those who experience it directly, but also their friends, family and any other people involved.
Live webchat service available.
Offers specialist support for children and young people affected by crime through their website You & Co.
Phone: 0808 16 89 111
Opening times: 24/7
Child Law Advice
Provides free legal advice and information on child, family and education law to parents, carers and young people.
Phone: 0300 330 5480.
Opening times: Monday-Friday 8am-6pm.