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.
When talking to children:
- Give children permission to tell their stories.
- Listen carefully to how they make sense of what happened.
- Give clear, simple explanations about scary events.
- Be patient if they are acting out.
- Have rules and routines so that children can predict what will come next.
- Build self-esteem in children by reminding them that they are loveable, competent and important.
- Let children see you solving problems in non-violent ways.
- Encourage creative and non-violent play and activities.
|When a child feels…
|Fear, lack of control or safety
- Create a safety plan, such as going to aneighbor’s house
- Find areas of their life where they can make plans and decisions
- Create daily routines that give a sense of control
|Anger at the abuser or the non-abusive parent
- Learn how to express their anger in ways that for not leaving do not harm themselves, others or property
|Anger and love for the abuser. Guilt for both feelings.
- Understand it is ok to feel both things. They are not bad if they love the abuser. They can love him/her but not the abusive behavior.
|Loss of a parent due to separation, loss of safety
- Develop a support system of extended family and in the home friends outside the home
|Guilt or responsibility for causing the violence or not being able to stop it
- Understand that it is never their fault and it is a problem for adults to work out