Domestic violence doesn’t just impact the individual who experiences it. For the estimated 3.3-10 million children who witness domestic violence every year, that trauma can result in serious long-term consequences. The potential effects of domestic violence on children include behavioral problems, chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
However, with the right support and resources, recovering from the trauma of domestic violence is possible. If you are a parent, guardian, or trusted authority to a child in this situation, the following interventions for children who have witnessed domestic violence are a good way to start the healing process.
● Create safety and stability. Domestic violence can threaten a children’s underlying sense of safety. Do your best to re-establish security by cultivating a reliable routine and a soothing home environment.
● Acknowledge what’s going on. Children are incredibly perceptive, and it’s possible that they’ve picked up on the abuse even if they weren’t in the same room. Validate their feelings and let them know that what happened wasn’t their fault.
● Discuss healthy relationships and boundaries. It’s crucial that children understand that abuse isn’t normal or okay. Talk to them about what healthy relationships look like, and emphasize that no one has a right to touch them inappropriately or hurt them.
● Seek treatment. Exposure to domestic violence can cause a lot of stress and difficult feelings for children. To ensure that they are able to process their trauma, consider taking them to see a mental health professional, or ask the school counselor to take them aside sometime.
At Connections for Abused Women and Their Children (CAWC), we believe that everyone has a right to a life free of violence. Our mission to end domestic violence is rooted in education, service, and advocacy. In addition to working toward broader social change, we provide empowerment-based and trauma-informed support in the form of shelter, counseling, and advocacy to individuals affected by domestic violence and their children. If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, don’t hesitate to call our 24-hour hotline at (773) 278-4566. To support our work, consider volunteering or donating.