Some people believe that they should stay in an abusive relationship for the sake of their children, but this is a terrible idea.
Why? Because domestic violence has a real impact on children, even if they are not being directly abused themselves. When children witness domestic violence, they experience a wide variety of traumatic reactions.
Moreover, even if you believe that your children are not being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by the perpetrator, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Kids can be surprisingly adept at hiding abuse when they don’t want it to be known, and many will pretend to be okay around the parent being abused in order to protect him or her.
In this post, we’re going to tell you about the effect of abuse on kids, why they should be part of your reason for leaving, and how a lawyer can help you escape a bad situation.
The Effects of Abuse on Children
Over 15 million American children live in a home where domestic violence has occurred. A child who is exposed to domestic violence is 15 times more likely to experience physical or sexual abuse than the U.S. average, according to one report.
Kids in these situations are at a much higher risk for long-term problems than the average person. They may experience physical, mental, emotional, and social detriments as witnesses or victims of abuse. What kind of detriments?
Short-Term Effects on Your Child
You may see these signs in your child shortly after he or she witnesses domestic violence or abuse.
- Heightened fear and anxiety
- Reverting to activities from babyhood, such as wetting the bed, sucking his or her thumb, and crying or whining more often
- Sleeping problems
- Marked separation anxiety in young children
- False guilt and self-blame for the problems
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of interest in school activities
- Slower cognitive, language, or sensory development
- Lower grades
- Lower reading ability
- Behavior issues at school
- Bullying or being the target of a bully
- Trouble making friends
- Lack of empathy
- Frequent stomachaches or headaches
- Skipping school
- Picking fights
- Teens may engage in risky behaviors such as sexual activity, alcohol use, or drug use
- Trouble with the law
Any of these signs may indicate your child is suffering from the stress of domestic violence or abuse. Get help for your child as soon as possible.
Long-Term Effects on Your Child
Many children will grow up to be abusers themselves if they see it modeled in their homes. Others will enter abusive relationships because it feels “normal” to them to live in a dangerous environment.
A boy who witnesses his mother being abused has a tenfold greater chance of becoming an abuser as an adult, compared with a boy who grows up in a non-abusive home. A girl who witnesses her mother being abused is six times more likely to experience sexual abuse as a girl who does not witness abuse in her home.
Young adults are at higher risk of suicide, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and juvenile delinquency when exposed to domestic violence in the home.
Adults who witnessed abuse as children have higher rates of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem than the general population. They also frequently experience health problems such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
How to Help Your Child
Every child has a unique response to abuse. Even though many children never forget the trauma, some recover better than others. You can take these steps to help your child if you are in an abusive situation.
- Praise your child often to build his or her self-esteem.
- Show physical affection to your child every day.
- Provide a normal routine to establish a sense of security.
- Tell your child the abuse is not his or her fault.
- Talk about the differences between healthy and abusive relationships.
- Help your child know the signs of sexual abuse.
- Get help through your child’s teacher, school counselor, spiritual advisor, or therapist.
- Expose your child to trusted adults who model good behaviors.
- Encourage your child to form healthy friendships.
These can help your child feel safe, but if you truly want to provide a safer environment, you should really be considering a separation or divorce.
When You’re Ready to Leave
Even if your child never sees you experience domestic violence, he or she can still sense the tension in your home and hear screaming, fighting, or hitting. You can protect your child from the effects of abuse by leaving the relationship. Be discreet in what you share with your child, because they may not be able to keep a secret, and further abuse may result.
If you are seeking a legal separation or divorce, contact a trusted Florida family law attorney for help. We will offer you compassionate service while standing firm against domestic violence. We will help you work with law enforcement agencies to form protections around you and your children. Call today for a free case review.