Domestic violence is a difficult subject to discuss at any age, but explaining why domestic abuse happens and what happens next can be almost impossibly hard when it comes to young children. What can you possibly say to a child who has witnessed abuse, been affected by abuse, or knows someone who has been abused?
While there are no easy answers, here are some guidelines that can help:
- Commend them for talking about it. Tell them, “You are brave to talk about this – I know that it’s hard. It’s hard for me, too.” If they are telling you about domestic abuse they have witnessed, thank them for coming forward and let them know you are glad that they have reached out.
- Be honest. Even though the subject is a tough one, there is rarely a good reason to lie to a child, especially when you are talking about a potentially dangerous subject. While it is okay to greatly simplify concepts, be truthful even if the truth is painful.
- Let them know they are not alone. Domestic violence is not something that makes the victims different or bad – it affects millions of families around the country, including millions of kids.
- Let them know that it isn’t their fault. Children have the tendency to think that they have caused any issues around them, and the result of this tendency can be particularly painful in the event that they witness domestic violence. They should fully understand that domestic abuse is in no way their fault—ever—even if an abuser has said so.
- Make sure they know where to get help. Don’t just let them know that you are a safe person to talk to – also tell them about other people who can help: relatives, friends, teachers, and police. Develop a safety plan with them: simple steps to take in the event that they hear or witness a domestic violence incident.
Talking to your kids about domestic violence—or talking to any child who has witnessed or heard about domestic violence—can be difficult. If he or she has been directly affected by domestic violence, be sure that the child also has the option of speaking with a professional counselor about this subject.
At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we are committed to assisting the victims of domestic violence. To learn more about our legal services, call 425-460-0550.