Domestic Violence - pg. 8

Children's Needs

Children from violent homes need a person they can talk to. The children need to be able to discuss their feelings and what is going on in their homes. Usually they are not able to talk with their mothers because children see their mothers as victims like themselves. They need to be able to confide in someone who can assess the problem and give them ideas for taking care of themselves both physically and emotionally.

Be Honest

The child or children you work with will be observing you as well. If you are honest and consistent in dealing with them, there is a good chance that they will open up to you as they learn to trust you.

Notice Details and the Child's Interests

Most children like to be noticed. Comment on things that you like about the child and be supportive of what the child likes. Make them feel special while you are with them. The following is a list of possible areas that children like or are concerned about regarding themselves. 

  • Their clothing and appearance.
  • Whether you like being with them.
  • Their games and interactions with others.
  • Their hobbies and personal things that they do.

Communicate to Children

Discuss their Interests

Familiarize yourself with what is popular with children so you will be better able to start conversations and get the child to relax with you. Topics that children are more likely to discuss are popular things that they are exposed to (i.e., movies, songs, games, clothing styles, toys, sports, etc). When they are comfortable around you, they will be more open and willing to discuss personal issues. By discussing topics that make impressions on children, you can learn about their beliefs and views of what is happening around them.

Be fun when needed

It is beneficial to show children of domestic violence that they have the ability to have fun and enjoy themselves. They often need an adult role model who is willing to have fun before they will join in. Seeing that an adult can do a fun activity allows them to do the same thing.

Let children know that you will listen

Children are more likely to be open if they feel that they will be listened to and believed. The subject of domestic violence makes many people uncomfortable. Children pick up on this and keep everything inside instead of talking through the difficulties. Many children will keep quiet to either protect their parents or to prevent retribution from their parents. Let the children know that you are willing to listen and discuss the issues that are of concern to them. Be patient and supportive with them and do not be judgmental of their reactions to domestic violence.

Child's Self-Esteem and Safety

Building a child's self-esteem

Many children growing up in domestically violent households have not received the guidance, attention, and positive input needed to develop strong self-images. The physical and verbal abuse caused by a parent only damages their self-esteem further. These children need help from other adults to help create and build their self-esteem. Here are some possible ways to help children do this:

  • Provide children with opportunities and activities in which they can succeed.
  • Reinforce appropriate behavior.
  • Be gentle and specific when it is necessary to criticize. Offer them alternative methods to succeed.
  • Be clear, honest, and direct when you interact with them.
  • Encourage children to get in touch with their negative feelings and find constructive ways to deal with them.
  • Allow enough flexibility for children to explore and have a feeling of freedom within the settings you provide for them.
  • Teach children that they can control how they react in all situations. Let them know that they can choose their own response and that it does not have to be a negative one.
  • Teaching safety measures

One of the most important things children living in a violent home can do for themselves is to have a safety plan. To help a child create a safety plan, ask them the following things:

  • How do you know when you feel unsafe?
  • Where can you go when you feel unsafe (a friend's house, a relative's house, the police, etc)?
  • Who can you talk to when you feel unsafe (a teacher, a friend's mom, etc)?
  • Who do you call for help? (Have the child show you how toy call, and that the child knows their own phone number and address.)

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