How can I support a child/young person who is witnessing domestic abuse at home?
Children and young people can respond in a multitude of ways to the trauma of witnessing domestic abuse even when they are not the direct targets of that abuse.
Often the non-abusive parent will try to shield and protect their children from the violent incidents, however children are often aware of what is happening in their home. Abuse can be witnessed in a number of ways, for example: being overheard from a different room; seeing the injuries following an incident of violence; they may get caught in the middle of an incident trying to stop it.
Children are completely dependent on their parents to provide safe and stable homes. If they do not feel safe in their home it can have a negative impact on their emotional and physical development needs.
Children can respond in a multitude of ways to the trauma of witnessing domestic abuse, such examples include:
- Anger/ acting out.
- Sleeping difficulties.
- Withdrawal/low self-esteem.
- Difficulty in establishing or maintaining boundaries.
- Difficulties in school
- Over protective or self and siblings
If your child or a child you know is witnessing domestic abuse it is important to talk to them about the situation. If adults don’t talk about it, children may feel that they shouldn’t talk about it either.
When supporting a child, it’s important to:
- Listen carefully, letting them explain their experiences in their own time.
- Reassure them that they are not to blame.
- Be someone who they can confide their feelings in.
- Don’t confront the abuser following the conversation with the child.
If the child is at risk of abuse or you have concerns for their welfare and safety, contact Tusla to make a report. Details of making a referral can be found of their website; www.tusla.ie/children-first/. You may be apprehensive about reporting the abuse or seeking support for fear of your children being taken off you, however you are not to blame for someone else’s abusive behaviour. It important that you and your children get the support you need.
Support services for children and young people:
– Childline: Free phone 1800 66 66 66, Free text 50101 www.childline.ie
– Spun Out: Text SPUNOUT to 086-1800 280, www.spunout.ie
– Teenline: free phone 1800 83 36 34, www.ispcc.ie/services/teenline
– CARI: 1890 92 45 67, www.cari.ie