It is very difficult to acknowledge that your children may have been affected by the violence you have experienced.
Our experience of working with mothers has shown they often believe they have kept the abuse hidden from their children. Our experience of working with children has shown this is rarely the case.
Often mothers are frightened to raise the subject with their children. It is important to remember that Women’s Aid is there for you and can help you to talk with your children in a safe and supportive way.
Women’s Aid offers You and Me, Mum, a 10 week programme which aims to help mothers support children and young people who have lived with domestic violence.
Listen to how they are feeling. Give them 100% attention by getting down to their physical level and hearing everything they say. Put your adult thoughts on hold for a while and try to see the situation through their eyes. The picture you get may be very different to the one you had formulated in your own mind. Encourage your children to talk about their feelings, concerns and hopes for the future.
Listen for the feelings being expressed and acknowledge these. Don’t tell your child how to feel but let them know you understand by reflecting on and accepting the feelings they have shared.
Try to be honest about the situation, without frightening them. Try not to make any promises you cannot keep.
Explain that the violence is not their fault and they are not responsible for the behaviour or the situation. Explain that violence is wrong and it does not solve problems. Tell them you love them and reassure them that this will never change. Give them plenty of hugs to show you love them and to give them the emotional support they need.
There are a range of resources that can help you to address this issue with your children. The Hideout is a UK website with information, activities, a quiz and stories of children living with domestic violence. You can also get advice from Women’s Aid on how to talk to and support your children. There are also organisations that can help you as a parent and that can support your children.
Some things to say to your child:
- it’s not your fault
- you can always tell me how you feel
- I will listen to you
- you have the right to feel safe
- there is nothing you could have done to prevent or change it
- I care about you, you are important to me, and
- we can think of ways to keep you safe in the future .
Remember, children and young people can and do recover from the negative impact of domestic violence provided the adequate support and reassurance is in place.