Domestic violence affects an entire family, not just the direct victim. Children can feel, see, and hear the violence, which is known to leave lifelong effects on children. Many studies have shown that children who live in homes where their parent is being harmed are more likely to experience learning disabilities, behavioral concerns, substance abuse or even repeat the abuse as an adult.
As advocates, it is most important to facilitate healthy parenting conversations with victims of violence while determining supportive factors and building resiliency. It is also important to keep in mind that violence is often generational and a parent experiencing violence may have once been a child victim as well.
So how does an advocate build supportive parenting factors and resiliency? In traumatic situations, it is easy to forget that there are simple activities a parent can do with their child to connect and enhance the parent-child bond. Futures Without Violence suggests a number of activities including:
- Allowing a child to express their feelings and emotions;
- Finding an activity that a child likes and is excelling at; or,
- Reading, playing and laughing!
Futures Without Violence also provides a “Positive Day” activity which is simply writing down three positive things a parent did with their child each day together and then discussing it.
Relationships from both the past and present affect all of us but there is always hope. By providing appropriate services and referrals, any advocate can help a victim begin to heal as both an individual and a parent. Simple resiliency skills such as knowing how to navigate stressful situations, stepping back and understanding the emotions that they are feeling before, during, and after an event, and modeling these skills to their children can assist the family with putting the violence in the past and building a brighter, violence free future.
Futures Without Violence offers materials for advocates along with talking points and supports to advocates working with families. Check them out at their website dedicated to serving children, youth and parents experiencing domestic violence – Promising Futures.