An estimated one in 15 children is affected by domestic violence every year, with the vast majority of these children bearing witness to the violence. Exposure to violence is traumatic for any child and has been linked to adverse outcomes, such as chronic health conditions, risky health behaviors, and a reduced life expectancy.
It is crucial for children in these situations to connect with safe and compassionate caregivers, whether that be a nonviolent parent or family members/friends outside of the immediate home. These grounding relationships often provide children with the coping mechanisms to heal and thrive.
Domestic violence occurs at an emotional, physical, and legal level. Here are some key ways that you can help children cope with domestic violence in all three spheres.
Provide Emotional Assistance
The number one thing you can do to help a child after witnessing domestic violence is to make them feel safe. Exposure to conflict in the home can leave children feeling isolated, so it’s essential to show them that they are not alone. Simply being there for them and creating small moments of connection, whether that be reading a book, taking a walk, or simply having a conversation, can have an enormous positive impact.
Active listening is also crucial. Children who have been exposed to domestic violence often feel a sense of guilt, even though they had no role in the conflict. Be sure to hear children out, be as honest as possible about the situation, and reassure them that they are not to blame.
Lastly, witnessing or experiencing domestic violence is traumatic, and there are many ways that this trauma can manifest in a child’s everyday life. Consider consulting with a mental health professional trained in helping children cope with stress and negative cognitions. While providing a child with your own support is crucial, a trained therapist is often a great addition to any child’s support network. They will know the questions to ask and the answers to look out for!
Provide Physical Assistance
The physical danger presented by domestic violence is no small matter. One in three women and one in four men have experienced physical violence by their partner. If the violence at home continues to escalate and you can physically remove the child from the environment, do so immediately.
However, there are many cases where it is impossible to remove children from the home. In these situations, you can help a child by building as calm and stable of an environment as possible. Because children who have witnessed domestic abuse are often on high alert, it can be helpful to provide a quiet space with low lighting and comfortable furniture to help them feel secure.
You might also try creating a predictable day-to-day routine. This schedule can add another layer of structure for children whose lives may seem overwhelming and unpredictable.
Provide Legal Assistance
Everyone deserves a home environment free from domestic violence. Hiring a domestic violence lawyer to navigate the ins and outs of the legal landscape is a crucial step towards this goal. A domestic violence attorney will advocate in the best interests of you and your children to help you seek safety in the law.
Whether you are looking for a change of custody, a protection order, a divorce, or you simply don’t know where to begin, the COLawTeam can help. Our dedicated team of family and criminal defense lawyers is committed to finding the best solution for you and your children.