When and Why You Need to Talk About Domestic Violence With Your Children
If you are a victim of domestic violence and have children with you in the home, this can be a very difficult topic for discussion. The same is true if your children have visited a home where violence has occurred – or if they have friends who are experiencing violence in their own homes. Yet, no matter what your child’s age, they understand more than you may think and they need your help to properly process what they observe.
At What Age?
From a young age you can start talking with your child about the proper way to treat others. With very young children it can be good to emphasize that hands are intended for work, for love and for helping others – not for hurting others. The same goes for words. From the youngest ages children can be taught that words are to be used to help and encourage rather than to tear down and hurt. These kinds of conversations will provide your child with the correct frame of reference through which to filter things they may see or hear.
At What Time?
Be aware that if your child is witness to domestic violence, their natural inclination may be to blame themselves. It’s important that you reassure your child that abuse is never their fault. These are conversations that can take place at any time, not only when abuse occurs. If you notice that your child has inexplicable health complaints such as a headache or stomach ache – it could be that they are internalizing fears. This is definitely the time to make sure communication channels are open and that you find the strength to have an uncomfortable but necessary conversation.
At What Level?
Most experts suggest that you keep your conversations age-appropriate. Give necessary facts without getting into information beyond your child’s maturity level. It’s good to talk about how to take care of self and how to maintain appropriate boundaries at the level of your child’s current understanding. How you discuss domestic violence with your toddler will differ from how you talk about it with your middle school or teenage child.
At the St. Joseph YWCA we can offer you a safe place to talk about ways to discuss the issues of violence and abuse with kids. We can also provide a safe place for you and your children to go when you determine that it is time to leave a situation where abuse is present. We are here to help you and your children and provide you with a safe environment so you can take next steps toward hope. If you feel you or your children are in immediate danger please call 911 – and read more about our Victim Services, Shelter for Abused and Homeless Women and Children, Bliss Manor or YWCA counseling programs today at www.ywcasj.org.