When a parent is experiencing domestic violence, it not only affects the parent experiencing the violence directly, but also the children in the household.
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that one person in a relationship uses to control the other. The behavior may be verbally, emotionally, physically, financially, or sexually abusive.
Children do not need to be the subject of domestic abuse to be affected by it. When children see, hear, or know about abuse by one parent towards another, they are affected by it in different ways. Children may feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless, or confused. These feelings and thoughts can last into adulthood, long after they have left the abusive household.
Parents trying to navigate domestic violence with children may try to minimize the abusive behavior or may not even recognize that it is affecting their children. While explaining domestic violence to children is not an easy task, there are helpful messaging for children:
- Violence isn’t okay.
- It isn’t your fault.
- I will do everything I can to help you be safe.
- It’s not your job to fix what is wrong in the family.
- I want you to tell me how you feel. It’s important, and I can handle it.
- It’s okay to have mixed feelings about either or both of your parents.
We always encourage our clients to seek counseling for their children if they think it would be helpful.
What can we do to help at Legal Aid?
- Provide legal advice and representation in obtaining civil protective orders.
- Provide legal advice and representation in child custody matters.
- Provide resources and referrals for counseling and support.
- Mentor pro bono attorneys who want to get involved and assist families navigating these difficult processes.