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Impact on Children
Domestic violence affects every member of a family. Children who witness incidents of domestic violence between their parents are at the greatest risk for becoming victims of violence themselves during teenage and young adult romantic relationships.(1) Children often see and hear more than we may be aware of, but they don't always understand what is happening or why. Every child may react differently, but may experience some of the following feelings:
  1. Powerless because they can’t stop the violence.

  2. Confused because it doesn’t make sense.

  3. Angry because it shouldn’t be happening.

  4. Guilty because they think they’ve done something wrong.

  5. Afraid because they may be hurt, they may lose someone they love, others may find out.

  6. Alone because they think it’s happening only to them.

Children may react immediately to the violence they witness; however, some will have a delayed response.

Source: King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and (1) Kitzmann, Katherine M.; Gaylord, Noni K.; Holt, Aimee R.; Kenny, Erin D., Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Vol 71(2), Apr 2003, 339-352.

Protecting Children
It is important to help your children find ways to stay safe and get help if violence is happening at home. You can help make your children safer by:
  1. Teaching them not to get in the middle of a fight, even if they want to help.

  2. Teaching them how to get to safety, to call 9-1-1, to give your address and phone number to the police.

  3. Teaching them who to call for help.

  4. Giving school officials a copy of your court order; tell them not to release your children to anyone without talking to you first; use a password so they can be sure it is you on the phone; give them a photo of the abuser.

  5. Making sure the children know who to tell at school if they see the abuser.

  6. Making sure that the school knows not to give your address or phone number to anyone.
Source: American Bar Association

Talking to Children
Talking about domestic violence and what is happening between you and your partner is very difficult. For your children, it's a lot scarier when no one talks to them about what’s happening. Following are some ways to help your children when you are living with domestic violence:
  1. Acknowledge that the violence happened and that you know it was hard for them.

  2. Listen to them.

  3. Talk about their feelings, if they want to.

  4. Show understanding.

  5. Let them know it’s not their fault.

  6. Let them know you love them.

  7. Let them know the violence is not okay.

  8. Acknowledge it’s hard/scary for them.

  9. Accept that they may not be willing or able to talk about it right away.

  10. Always act in a way that is non-threatening and non-violent with your kids.

  11. Take them to counseling if they need it.

  12. Set limits respectfully when your child is acting violent.
When you acknowledge what is happening and talk to your children about the violence you are helping them:
  1. Feel safer.

  2. Learn that the violence isn’t their fault.

  3. Learn that violence is not the way to solve problems.

  4. Feel cared for and understood.

  5. Learn that it is OK to talk about their feelings.
Source: King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence
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