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quick escape

Children Who Witness

How do you know if children are witnessing violence at home?

Children and adolescents need their parents to provide a caring and safe home where they can grow, learn and play. However, when a child sees, hears or knows that one parent is being hurt by another, then the security usually found at home is threatened. Often parents think children do not know about the abuse and violence that is happening. But children know more about what is happening than we think they do. They may hear or see the scary event occurring. Other times they know something bad happened because of the worry on a parent’s face, the injuries on a parent’s body, or things that are messed up or broken in the home.

Symptoms

What they see can hurt for life

Children of all ages, even infants, can be harmed by seeing or hearing abuse. Below are some symptoms that may appear when children and teens witness domestic abuse.

Babies and Toddlers:

  • Irritability, frustration or inconsolable crying 
  • Frequent illness such as diarrhea 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Problems sleeping or eating 
  • Toileting problems (wetting him/herself) 
  • Difficulty separating from caregiver 
  • Developmental delays
  • Lack of responsiveness 
  • Not showing any feelings 
  • More tantrums

Solutions

How we can help children heal

There are things you can do to help the children in your life heal. Remember that children understand violence differently. Sometimes it is hard to listen to the child’s distress, but talking helps children heal. Acting out may be the only way they know how to tell you they need help.

The most important thing for a child who has witnessed abuse is a positive relationship with the non-abusive parent. That means the parent:
  • Listens to the child’s feelings and experiences of the abuse 
  • Talks with the child about the abuse 
  • Is emotionally available and present 
  • Provides ongoing love and support 
  • Creates routine, stability and safety in the home 
  • Seeks help for her/his own emotional and physical needs in order to deal with the abuse. This may include seeking therapy. 
Caring relationships with other trustworthy adults can help as well.
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