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Effects on Children
Children are the hope of our future. Childhood in a violence-prone family strays from traditional Jewish values toward children. Family violence teaches children that abuse is a way to cope with stress, solve problems and get what you want. These are lessons that are inconsistent with the image of harmony and love fostered in most Jewish homes.
It is a joyous task to nurture children into self-sustaining adults. Both parents and the wider community have a duty to guide our young ones in recognising their own dignity and worth. But family violence diverts children’s growth to focus on survival skills, creates emotional scars and may perpetuate abuse into the next generation.
“A thing learnt in childhood is proven in old age.” Proverb
Tell-tale signs of abuse
Children may not always suffer direct abuse or see the family violence but, they always aware of its occurrence. They are secondary victims. Even if violence occurs between parents only, or mainly in private, children may react in many different ways. Some of the behaviour children may exhibit includes:
- Emotional responses like anger, fear and depression;
- Sleep disorders and regression to bed wetting, thumb sucking etc.;
- Replicating the abuse or violence by bullying and cruelty to others or pets;
- Psychosomatic illness or becoming anxious and withdrawn;
- Attempting self-harm or running away from home;
- Changes in attitude or academic performance at school;
- Older children may even begin to abuse alcohol or other substances.
Not all children will show outward signs of distress. Some bottle up feelings of panic, anxiety and self-blame. Any support provided to families experiencing violence should always include children, who have a right to grow-up in a caring, safe environment.
Supporting children of abuse
Children must learn that there is no excuse for violence or abuse but, they often feel responsible for the family violence. So children growing up in abusive homes should be reassured often that they are not to blame. Above all, remind children they are valued and loved.
Encourage children to talk about their feelings and what worries them. Many benefit from meeting a counsellor or supporter outside the family. That might include a service like Kids Helpline, one of the many domestic violence support organisations.
Other practical ideas
Organise support at school
Professional educators are trained to recognise tell-tale signs of abuse and have access to a wide range of resources. A child’s teacher, guidance counsellor or even the school principal are good people to reinforce the learning that violence and abuse are not OK.
Getting help in emergencies
Ensure children know to how to call 000. This is a good thing for them to know in any case and gives assurance that help is available. Children should know when to ask for Police, Ambulance or Fire and how to state the home address.
Take action against the abuse
It may be worthwhile to ask a domestic violence service or support organisation for help. Children at risk can also benefit from knowing there is a safe place to seek comfort, with or without a parent.
Family violence harms children and destroys the purity, joy and beauty of childhood.
To learn more about helping children of abuse or the effects of family violence, contact the JTAFV.