While this isn’t something people like to talk about, domestic abuse is something that does happen within our society. And while it might not be the child that is directly being physically or emotionally abused, abusive situations within the home can be very impactful on everyone in the family. If you are concerned about a child you know who may be in an unhealthy environment at home, here are three tips for helping a child exposed to domestic violence.
Know The Signs and Symptoms
Because a child in a home where domestic abuse is taking place may not have physical marks on his or her body to show their abuse, it can be difficult to recognize if a child is being affected by domestic abuse. However, there are a few signs you can be on the lookout for that could help you determine if abuse is taking place in their home. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, young children often show anxiety, aggression, loss of interest, and changes in appetite when witnessing abuse at home. For older children, being rebellious, withdrawn, or depressed can be signs that abuse is taking place at home.
Understanding How Abuse Affects Children
Just because a child isn’t being abused themselves doesn’t mean that abuse taking place around them isn’t impacting them. According to the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, children who are frequently exposed to abusive relationships often feel the same fear and emotional pain that those who are actively being abused feel. This means that just because a child isn’t getting physically hit, they aren’t immune to what’s going on within the walls of their home. And as the child gets older, this can be evidenced in the way they conduct their own relationships, be it with friends, romantic partners, or their own children.
One of the best things you can do to help a child in an abusive home is to help them find safety. To do this, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network recommends partnering with advocacy groups, shelters, domestic violence law firms, or other service agencies to help you navigate this complicated situation. Keep in mind, the child you’re interested in helping isn’t the only one who may need assistance getting out of this dangerous living situation. There may be a battered parent or other children who will also need help finding safety, which is where getting help could make things easier on you as a concerned outsider.
No one wants to see a child being physically or emotionally harmed, be it directly or indirectly. So if you fear that a child in your life is living in an abusive home, consider using the tips mentioned above to get them the help and assistance they may be in need of.