What children feel when witnessing domestic violence?
Witnessing domestic violence can have a tremendous negative impact on the emotional well-being of children. Domestic violence causes immense psychological and emotional trauma in children. It creates a hostile environment that is unpredictable and is full of fear and anxiety. Unfortunately, a large number of children witness domestic violence in their homes. Most cases of domestic violence involving the child’s mother being the victim of abuse by the father.
It is very important to understand how much domestic violence can harm a child. Let’s take a better look at this.
Feelings of children who witness domestic violence
Children who witness domestic violence at an early age go through the same trauma as those who suffer child abuse. Children who see their mother being harassed, sexually or physically assaulted or threatened will experience immense trauma. They might pretend it’s no big deal, or they may quickly show signs of trauma, such as anxiety, sleep disruption or problems in school. The child may react to any reminder of the domestic violence. Sights, smells, tastes, sounds, words, things, places, emotions, even other people can become linked in the child’s mind with the traumatic events. For example, a school-age child may become upset when watching a football game because the violent contact between players is a reminder of domestic violence. Sometimes behavior that seems to come out of nowhere, such as a sudden tantrum, is actually a reaction to a trauma reminder. Such children are often paranoid about the future, and they constantly look for ways to avoid things to protect themselves. Simply getting through the day becomes a challenge for such children and they don’t have any time to relax, learn, play or have fun.
Behaviours of children who witness domestic violence
Domestic violence triggers a certain emotional response in children. It causes them to be fearful, anxious, shameful, guilty, sad and depressed and angry. They may also exhibit other responses such as sleeplessness, headaches, inability to concentrate and bedwetting.
The behaviour of children who are subject to domestic violence varies from one child to another. While some children will look to please out of fear, others will act out while some others will withdraw completely. None of these behaviours are healthy for a child.
Long-term effects of domestic violence
Whether or not a child is abused physically, domestic violence leaves negative long-term effects in children. Children who suffer psychological and emotional trauma at a young age grow up with a faulty idea of relationships. They believe that relationships consist of violence and intimidation.
Experts believe that such children grow up to believe that violence is a solution to most problems in life. As they grow up, they continuously resort to violence and intimidation tactics to get through problems and conflicts. This holds true both for boys as well as for girls.