What Do My Children Know?
Trying to raise children in home where domestic violence is taking place creates a unique set of pressures. There is so much turmoil and conflict, it can be hard to step back and look at your situation from a different vantage point. Changing your perspective can help bring things into focus that need your attention and care. I want us to think about your situation as seen from the eyes of your children.
What do you think your children know?
This is an important question because the answer to it will inform how you care for and disciple them. God calls us to teach our children about him, to love him and honor him (Deut. 6:5-6). For any of us to be effective,we must speak truths into our children’s world. But even before speaking we must know what their world is like: what is it like for them to live in their home, what do they fear, what comforts them and who do they trust? Finding the answer to these questions can help you better understand what your child’s world is like.
In trying to know your children better you will have to confront a difficult question: Do you think your children are aware of the abuse you experience? They most likely are. This is a hard reality to acknowledge. It’s much easier to believe that children remain unaware of the abuse in their homes. But research has demonstrated that the opposite is true. The Childhood Domestic Violence Association, reports that majority of parents currently living with an abusive partner believe that their children are not aware of what is occurring. However, when asked, roughly 90 percent of children said that they were very aware of that abuse.
And they are frightened -but often pretend not to be.
What do you think your child sees? Have they witnessed any violence? Seen you manipulated or mocked? Would they have seen demonstrations of rage, broken things, or threatening gestures? Could they have noticed any of your wounds or tears?
What do you think they hear? The demeaning things said to you? Outbursts? Arguments through walls? Your pleading or crying?
Just like you, your children live with someone who is threatening and controlling. They have a sense of it- it is frightening for them. They might live in fear that the abuse will happen again. Chances are they do not know how to talk about it or how make sense of how they are feeling.
[You should also ask yourself if your children themselves are at risk. If your children are the victims of verbal, physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse you must seek to protect them.]
Children who live with and are aware of the domestic abuse in their homes will be shaped by it. I have seen children work hard to try to keep the peace not just between their parents but among their friends. Taking on the role of keeping everyone happy, at a cost to themselves. Other children adopt the attitude of the abusive parent, becoming their ally as a tactic to keep themselves safe. Some children skillfully retreat and are very effective at becoming invisible during conflict. There are endless ways that children cope. Overtime their strategies become patterns that they use to navigate other relationships.
So, it’s important to discover what your children know so that you can care wisely for them, teaching them healthy ways to cope while connecting them to a God who sees, hears and knows them. In the next two blogs we’ll look at how domestic abuse affects children, and how you can help your children.
Psalm 91 is prayer of protection. In the days of ahead, let its words become your prayers for you and your children. Take comfort in knowing that the Lord a refuge, rescuer and a protector, and that it’s his desire to envelope your precious children into his family- leading them to himself and salvation.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation,”