Domestic violence will affect the whole family, even if there are members of the family who have not directly experienced the physical abuse. I’ve been working with the children of domestic violence survivors for seven months now and I’ve watched each child handle their situation differently. Some are happy, singing, dancing, wanting hugs. They come running to greet me as soon as I enter the play area and they send their drawings home with me at the end of the evening. Others, remain shy and reserved. A few have openly expressed very real pain. For the little ones, especially, being in a strange place away from their own comfort zone can present a real challenge for their mums.
I have been amazed by some of the mothers I’ve met; they’re living in temporary housing, they have little to no personal possessions with them, they’re working through all sorts of legal procedures on top of counseling, taking care of their kids, and trying to find work. All of that while working through the pain of their recently abusive situation.
If that’s you, be encouraged. You are doing something incredible for yourself and for your kids. They may be driving you crazy. Maybe their sleep schedule has been disrupted and you’ve all had a few tense moments (or more than a few). It may seem like everything you’ve ever taught them has been forgotten as they’re unleashing endless amounts of energy. Maybe you’re currently in temporary housing or staying with friends or family; the structure of the daily routine your kids had is now gone. That’s okay. Keep at it! You’re doing the best you can and that’s all anyone can do. Surround yourself with people who not only understand your situation but can offer real support and encouragement. You’re tackling two monumental tasks: taking care of your kids and taking care of yourself. Both are important and you can’t work on one and ignore the other.
A section of the Survivor’s Handbook from Women’s Aid is all about helping kids through the after-effects of domestic violence, whether they’ve been physically abused or not. It explains the various responses children have toward domestic violence (since every child is different) and gives practical advice for how to help your kids through their own healing process. You can access that section below: