It seems like every day the news covers another crime of domestic violence or child abuse and neglect. These tragedies are hard to process and we may find ourselves grateful that we don’t know the victims, or that this isn’t happening in our home. However, violence towards children can be closer than you think. Children, whether a direct victim or in a home with violence, can suffer the effects of violence long after the fighting has stopped.
Some common myths that influence how we view the effects of violence towards children may minimize the impact. One myth that some parents or caregivers may believe that if they do not fight around their children, their children aren’t affected. However, children can tell if a parent is hurt. They can see what may have been broken, or know that the police had to get involved. That child may then form the destructive belief that the name-calling or hitting was their fault, or that those behaviors are appropriate ways to deal with anger. Later, the child may cope with those destructive beliefs by using drugs or alcohol, believing that they deserve violence from others, or perpetrating further violence in their peer or romantic relationships. People may believe that violence is normal, continuing this vicious cycle.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month, and while some of us may not be parents, we might be a significant person to a child in need of protection. Physical or emotional violence towards family members is never normal, and help is available. By addressing small concerns early, families can greatly reduce the possibility of injury or the negative effects of exposure to violence. Ideas include: connecting with a local parenting class to get new ideas on how to manage concerns as children grow and develop, talking with a counselor about your own exposure to violence, identifying and treating medical needs or addiction issues, or working with an expert to recognize and effectively manage anger or stress for yourself. Every healthy behavior, however small, can help break the cycle of violence in a child’s life.
Tara Lzicar is a licensed clinical professional counselor who specializes in domestic violence intervention treatment and trauma informed therapy at Terry Reilly SANE Solutions.