How you can help your children
If you’re a survivor with children you have probably tried to shield them from the abuse as much as possible. But talking to children about what’s happening can help them to feel less powerless, confused and angry.
Here’s some advice to help your children. If you have any concerns or worries, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at the 24hr freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247 24.
1. Do talk to your children – and listen to them. Most children will appreciate an opportunity to acknowledge the abuse and to talk about what they are feeling.
2. Try to be honest about the situation, without frightening them, in an age appropriate manner. Reassure them that the abuse is not their fault and that they are not responsible for adult behaviour.
3. Explain to them that abuse is wrong and that it does not solve problems. Remember, your children will naturally trust you – try not to break that trust by directly lying to them.
4. Encourage your children to talk about their wishes and feelings. You could do this perhaps by doing an activity together, or encouraging them to draw or write about what is happening and how they feel about it. Your child’s teacher may be able to help you with this. Sometimes children will wait until they feel safe and are no longer in the violent environment before they start to talk about their feelings.
5. Tell them where to get more information. You could suggest that your children look at the Women’s Aid website for children and young people, The Hideout. This website has information, activities, a quiz and stories of children living with domestic abuse.
6. Teach them how to get emergency help. Show them how to dial 999 but make sure they are aware that they aren’t responsible for protecting you if you are being attacked.
7. Praise them. Help to boost their self esteem by regularly giving them praise, attention and affection.
8. Ask for help. Demonstrate that asking for help is a good thing – do it yourself so your children can see there is nothing to be ashamed of. You may believe it is best for your children if you try to keep the family together in order to provide the security of a home and father. However, children will feel more secure and will be safer living with one parent in a stable environment than with two parents when the environment is unstable and abusive.
If you have a legal problem you should seek proper legal advice.
Rights of Women are a good organisation to speak to and provide free legal advice on domestic violence and abuse, finances and property on relationship breakdown and arrangements for children. They have a helpline and lots of useful information on their website. Including:
- Family Court proceedings: where can I get advice and support?
- Children and the law: the family court process
- Children and the law: domestic abuse and Practice Direction 12J
Coram Children’s Legal Centre’s Child Law Advice Service provides free legal advice and information on child and family issues. They have a helpline which offers free advice between Monday-Friday, 8am to 6pm on 0300 330 5480. They also offer a paid for call back service with a legal advisor which costs £25.