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What should you tell your children about domestic violence?

Domestic violence can have a wide range of effects on the children who experience it. They may respond with frustration and tears, withdrawal or nervousness. The child's age, the duration of the incident and his or her proximity to it can all impact the reaction. If you are a Tennessee parent caught up in a violent scenario at home, knowing how to talk to your children about what is happening may be helpful.

First, it is important to recognize the long-term effects of domestic violence on kids. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network explains the signs you may see in children when they experience a violent home life. They are more likely to become depressed, suffer from anxiety, have ongoing health concerns and endure low self-esteem. Children exposed to domestic violence also have a greater chance of becoming violent toward others and themselves, increasingly expressing a desire to commit suicide.

Other signs you should be on the lookout for include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble in school
  • Antisocial behavior

If you see these signs in your children, the NCTSN also offers guidance on how to help them recover. Kids need a "positive, caring, and protective adult" in their lives in order to feel safe. The NCTSN says a long-term relationship of this nature is best, but if kids have brief encounters with caring mentors, teachers, or other advocates, they have a greater chance of recovering from the effects of the violence they have experienced.

Finally, according to the NCTSN, children need to talk about what happened, and they need to hear "key messages" from you, such as:

  • "'It is not your fault.'"
  • "What you saw was not okay."
  • "Violence is never okay."
  • "I'm sorry you had this experience."

Kids who witness domestic violence need strong support to guide them to recovery. They should hear firsthand from you that they are not responsible to fix the problems in your home. 

This information does not intend to provide legal advice but to educate about the effects of domestic violence on children.

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