Educate yourself about parenting after domestic violence with these 3 myths and facts. How will you support those in your community dealing with domestic violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October?
Myth #1: When the abuse is over and the family is safe, it’s best to forget about the violence and move on.
Fact: Most often, when there is violence in a home, the children are aware of it. Even if they aren’t present for actual incidents, they may hear threats or fighting or observe the physical signs of abuse such as bruises, tears, or broken objects around the home. They may have been victims themselves too. When kids see, hear, or otherwise know about abuse of one parent by another, they have many feelings, thoughts, and questions. It may be difficult to discuss the abuse. It is okay to acknowledge the your children how uncomfortable and scary it is to talk about violence. But it is critical for the healing process that you give your children the chance to express their thoughts and feelings and ask questions.
When you talk to them, you can:
Help them feel safer
Reassure them the violence is not their fault
Teach them that violence is never the way to solve problems
Make them feel cared for and understood
Teach them that it is healthy and natural to talk about their feelings with you
Myth #2: It’s impossible for children to love both the abuser and the caregiver.
Fact: Children who have witnessed domestic abuse in their homes have complicated feelings about both the abuser and the caregiver. They may think that they have to choose sides. They may be angry, sad, or afraid. They may be confused because the person who was abusive was also likely loving and fun at other times. They may feel guilty because they believe the abuse was their fault or they could have stopped it. They may lose respect for both the abuser and the abused. These are all very normal feelings for children in this situation.
Don’t expect your children to have the same feelings that you do about the abuser. Instead, listen to them and accept their feelings. Reassure them that you want them to talk to you honestly and that you won’t be angry to hear that they love and miss their other parent.
Myth #3: Women who have been abused by a partner are bad parents.
Fact: Often, leaving an abusive relationship means dealing with a whole host of new hardships. Women who choose to leave may experience serious financial hardships, physical problems, and emotional difficulties. These issues make their lives and the job of parenting much more challenging. Parenting children who have witnessed domestic violence can be tough . It is imperative for every parent who leaves an abusive relationship to recognize that living with violence, with threats of violence, and with a lack of control over her own life may have affected her behavior toward her children and her ability to be the kind of parent she wants to be. And the reverse is also true; often, domestic violence affects the way that children treat their non-abusive parent. None of this means that the survivor is a bad parent. Rather, it may mean that the parent starting a new life free of violence may want to develop, learn, and practice new parenting skills.