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There is a lot of things that parents can do to help children bounce back, thrive and lead healthy lives.
At Family Life we believe that all children should be safe in their homes and communities but for too many children, home is a scary, unsafe place to be. Sometimes children get caught up in the violence and are physically harmed themselves while other times, children are impacted by witnessing violence.
A myth exists that children are safe if the violence in the home is not directed at them. However we know that children exposed to violence are at increased risk of exposure to traumatic events, such as the injury of a parent. The negative impact on the children can result in emotional and psychological trauma which can have both short and long term effects, continuing on into adolescence and adulthood.
There is significant risk of ever-increasing harm to the child’s physical, emotional and social development. The impact on a child impacted by family violence can affect the child’s;
Development – Infants and small children who are exposed to violence in the home experience so much added emotional stress that it can harm the development of their brains and impair cognitive and sensory growth.
Behaviour changes – can include excessive irritability, sleep problems, emotional distress, fear of being alone, immature behaviour, and problems with toilet training and bed-wetting.
Emotions – children may exhibit signs of more aggressive behaviour, such as bullying, and are up to three times more likely to be involved in fighting.
Learning capacity – At an early age, a child’s brain is becoming ‘hard-wired’ for later physical and emotional functioning. Exposure to family violence threatens that development. As they grow, children who are exposed to violence may continue to show signs of problems. Young children’s language development may be impaired, primary-school-age children may have more trouble with school work, and show poor concentration and focus. They tend not to do as well in school. In one study, forty per cent had lower reading abilities than children from non violent homes.
Personality and behavioural problems – among children exposed to violence in the home can take the forms of psychosomatic illnesses, depression, suicidal tendencies, and bed-wetting.
Relationships – Children may feel socially isolated, unable to make friends as easily due to social discomfort or confusion over what is acceptable.
Children react to their environment in different ways, and reactions can vary depending on the child’s gender and age. A child may be able to talk about what happened but unable to describe bodily feelings or personal thoughts. Emotion becomes severed from the traumatic event that caused it and there can be disconnected experiences of acute anxiety and fear.
It is essential to know that although a child who lives with violence is forever changed, they are not forever damaged.
Family Life’s Children’s services are available individually, as part of a group of children with similar experiences or via school-based programs.
For more information about any of these programs or groups, please phone Family Life on 03 8599 5433 and ask to speak to the Duty Worker or email email@example.com