• Gina Kendall Lusardi

Beating Up A Child’s Mental Health

The abuse you are living is not your fault but in my own opinion I feel that it is your duty to leave that abusive relationship as soon as you can, especially if children are involved.

I am a child of domestic abuse and I know first hand the damaging effects that living in a home watching your parent being abused does to you not only as a child but stays with you your entire life.

Many years after the physical abuse in my family stopped my mother stated “I don't understand how me and your dad fighting affected you kids.” Like we were invisible beings who wisped off when the fighting started. It dawned on me that she had no idea of the true damage that we lived through or experienced. I’m not blaming her, I know she lived every day of her life in survival mode.

Children are often considered the hidden or littlest victims in families where domestic violence occurs.

Studies have estimated that 3.3 - 10 million children witness domestic violence each year.

Children can display a variety of behaviors due to witnessing domestic violence and those behaviors can affect their ability to be successful in school and other social settings. As a child we were often in and out of school due to the fact that we were often hidden from the abuse at shelters or at family members. By the time we returned to school we were so far behind that it didn’t matter how hard we worked we could never catch up. Kids didn’t understand and the teachers didn’t understand. When I was in 12th grade I had a school counselor tell me “ I just don't understand why you don't come to school” at that moment in a combination of 12 years of having that question asked I wanted to just blurt it all out, but I didn’t. I was well versed in “keeping the family secret”

To learn more about the effects domestic abuse can have on children by their age group below:

Impact of Exposure to Domestic Violence

Newborn to 5

  • Sleep and/or eating disruptions

  • Withdrawal/lack of responsiveness

  • Intense/pronounced separation anxiety

  • Inconsolable crying

  • Developmental regression, loss of acquired skills

  • Intense anxiety, worries, and/or new fears

  • Increased aggression and/or impulsive behavior

Ages 6 to 11

  • Nightmares, sleep disruptions

  • Aggression and difficulty with peer relationships in school

  • Difficulty with concentration and task completion in school

  • Withdrawal and/or emotional numbing

  • School avoidance and/or truancy

Ages 12 to 18

  • Antisocial behavior

  • School failure Impulsive and/or reckless behavior, e.g.,

  • School truancy

  • Substance abuse

  • Running away

  • Involvement in violent or abusive dating relationships

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Withdrawal

*Adapted from National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Many researchers have concluded that some children who witness or are victims of domestic violence experience a lasting impact on their lives and hopes for the future. “A child’s developing brain can mistakenly encode the violence,” says Children of Domestic Violence, adding that kids can grow up believing that violence is normal. As a child growing up in domestic abuse violence, hitting, name calling and everything associated with domestic abuse was indeed the “norm” for me. I thought all families lived like this.

If you would like to know if your child will end up being abused like you or abusing their own partner know that the single best predictor of children becoming either perpetrators or victims of domestic violence later in life is whether or not they grow up in a home where there is domestic violence.

Studies from various countries support the findings that rates of abuse are higher among women whose husbands were abused as children or who saw their mothers being abused. This is entirely preventable by the parent leaving that abusive relationship. Because it is just about you. No Mom wants their child to hurt someone else or be hurt by someone else that is why it is so vitally important that we, the survivors, be upfront, vulnerable, honest, and raw about what it is exactly like.

Compared with children in other households, children who have been exposed to domestic violence often suffer from insomnia and have trouble with bed-wetting. I wet the bed until I was 12 years old. I was ashamed and I was often teased for it. I also slept under tables and beds with the dust bunnies, cobwebs and roaches because I felt safe under there. These children are also more likely to experience difficulties in school and to score lower on assessments of verbal, motor, and cognitive skills, and are more likely to exhibit aggressive and antisocial behavior, to be depressed and anxious, and to have slower cognitive development. Their brains are literally being rewired by the abuse. I will link a video on how exposure to domestic abuse changes a child's actual DNA.

If you have children, you have probably tried to shield them from the domestic abuse as much as you possibly can. Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on children and young people that can last into adulthood.

Children can witness domestic abuse in a variety of ways:

  • they may be in the same room and may get caught in the middle of an incident, perhaps in an effort to make the violence stop;

  • they may be in another room but be able to hear the abuse or see their mother’s physical injuries following an incident of violence; or

  • they may be forced to take part in verbally abusing the victim.

Children are completely dependent on the adults around them, and if they do not feel safe in their own homes, this can have many negative physical and emotional effects on them throughout their lives. All children witnessing domestic violence are being emotionally abused.

Children will react in different ways to being brought up in a home with an abusive person. They may feel that they are to blame, or – like you – they may feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless, or confused. They may have ambivalent feelings, both towards the abuser, and towards the non-abusing parent.

These are some of the effects of domestic violence on children:

  • They may become anxious or depressed or may even attempt suicide

  • They may have difficulty sleeping out of fear that when they wake up their parent will be dead.

  • They may have nightmares or flashbacks due to PTSD.

  • They may complain of physical symptoms such as tummy aches brought on by stress

  • They may start to wet their bed

  • They may have temper tantrums

  • They may behave as though they are much younger than they are

  • They may have problems at school, or may start truanting

  • They may become aggressive, monkey see monkey do

  • They may withdraw from other people and have very few friends

  • They may have a lowered sense of self-worth

  • Older children may start to use alcohol or drugs as a means of escape

  • They may begin to self-harm by taking overdoses or cutting themselves

  • They may develop an eating disorder.

Abuse may also interfere with your children’s social relationships: they may feel unable to invite friends round (or may be prevented from doing so by the abuser) out of shame, fear, or concern about what their friends may see. This was the case many times in our home.

They may feel guilty, and think the abuse is their fault, or that they ought to be able to stop it in some way. There can be an impact on school attendance and achievement: some children will stay home in an attempt to protect their mother, or because they are frightened what may happen if they go out. Worry, disturbed sleep and lack of concentration can all affect school work.

There are things you can do to help your child. First and foremost is to escape the abuse as soon as you can. Leaving or reporting the abuse to authorities is acting responsibly to seek help for yourself and your children, and you are never to blame for someone else’s abuse.

It is so very important that you – the non-abusing parent – are supported so that in turn you can support your children and ensure that they are safe, and that the effects of witnessing (and perhaps directly experiencing) the abuse are addressed.

You must stop making excuses for your abusive partner. Remember when you lie for them you are not putting yours or your children's needs first.

If your child, or a child you know, tells you that he/she has been abused

  • Your immediate response is very important:

  • Listen carefully and let your child tell you what happened in his/her own time. Do not brush it off because it is too hard for you to hear.

  • Reassure your child that he/she is not to blame for what happened (or is happening).

  • Let your child know he/she is very brave to tell you about it.

  • Show your child that you are concerned for him/her.

  • Try to stay calm and not let your child see how shocked you are.

  • If your child is at risk of further abuse (for example, if you are still living with the perpetrator, or if your children have regular contact with him) then you will need to take steps to protect him/her from further harm. First thing is to leave or remove the child from the situation, seek help from your local domestic abuse organizations or law enforcement. Get the authorities involved; they are there to assist and protect the child and you.

There are a number of evidenced based programs that can help children, such as The Incredible Years. Trauma-informed therapies like Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Parent Child Interaction Therapy have been shown to be effective in helping children who have experienced a trauma like witnessing domestic violence.

The major emphases for children's healing in these programs and therapies are:

  • increasing a child’s sense of physical and emotional safety

  • developing self-esteem and stronger social skills

  • developing respect for others

  • fostering a sense of control of one’s life

Never stop finding help for your child no matter the age so they can heal from the trauma of abuse. When you grow up in domestic abuse the trauma will follow you the rest of your life if it is not dealt with early.

I know you love you kids for then you probably love yourself. So please love them enough to save both of you. Below is a link to download a free escape plan to help you get yourself and your children out.

Have you or anyone you know ever experienced childhood trauma due to domestic violence? If so please comment "ME" below.

If you found this blog and video helpful and educational please give us a like

Free Escape Plan Download

How Domestic Abuse Changes A Child's DNA video

The Incredible Years - http://www.incredibleyears.com/

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-https://tfcbt.org/

Parent Child Interaction Therapy- http://www.pcit.org/

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#children #kids #mental health #dv #domestic violence #physical abuse #damaged #family secrets #hitting #name calling #ptsd

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