Talking with Kids About Domestic Violence
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Throughout this month we invite you to reflect on how exposure to domestic violence may impact children and how together we can better support children and families experiencing domestic violence. Exposure to domestic violence greatly impacts children’s healthy development including their emotional, mental and physical health. Left unaddressed this impact can carry into adulthood.
Here are some tips on how to talk to kids about their experience of violence in their home from Safe Start Center at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Talking with children about violence can be hard. But it’s often the best way to help. Adults avoid talking to children about violence for many reasons. Have you thought any of the things below? If you have, you aren’t alone.
- I don’t know what to say.
- I’ve tried to talk about it, but she won’t listen.
- I feel uncomfortable.
- It might make things worse.
- It’s over now. Why talk about it?
It’s OK to have these thoughts. But don’t let them stop you from talking to a child who may have seen or been hurt by violence. Talking is the first step toward healing.
Here are some ways to get started:
- Take a deep breath. Talking about violence is tough.
- Try to get more comfortable by talking to someone you trust first. That person can help you plan what you want to say to the child.
- If you were hurt by the same violence the child saw or experienced, tell yourself that it’s OK to feel upset when you remember what happened. It’s scary for the child, too. Once you start talking, you may feel better.
- Begin with an opening question, asking the child what they thinks happened and how they feel about it.
- Don’t assume you know what the child experienced, even if you were there when the violence happened.
- Children often perceive violence very differently than grownups do. Don’t try to correct the child. Listen.
- Be patient. Don’t push it if it seems as if the child doesn’t want to talk or listen. You can try again later.
- You’ll find a more detailed guide – Domestic Violence and Children: Questions and Answers for Domestic Violence Project Advocates – prepared by The National Child Traumatic Stress Network