Little eyes, little ears

Little eyes, little ears; how violence against a mother shapes children as they grow

Children are changed by growing up with violence and abuse at home

Bad sights, sounds and experiences take many forms. A hit or slap is obvious to see. Abusive words and interactions cause invisible bruises.

Change can be sudden or change can be gradual

Violence at home can take the form of one or more traumatic incidents triggering sudden change. Or changes can occur slowly in reaction to the daily dynamics of abusive relationships, shaping a child incrementally as he or she grows.

Change can be visible or change can be inside

Some changes show in a child’s behaviour, such as crying, aggression, or disrespect to women. Violence in the home also changes how children think and feel – about themselves, their families and life in general.

Children are not passive witnesses to noise, tension and violence at home

Little eyes and little ears don’t miss much, soaking in sights and sounds. Child "witnesses" of violence and abuse are overwhelmed by intense feelings and concentrate hard on their own thoughts. They may feel confused and scared and blame themselves.

As they watch or listen, they guess what caused the "fight," imagine what might happen next, and anticipate potential consequences.

Change can be bad and change can be good

By understanding a child’s view, we can nurture positive changes: correct distorted ideas, encourage helpful coping, build good interpersonal skills, and foster management of intense emotions. And we can support mothers as they help their children heal and thrive.

A child who lives with violence is

forever changed, but not forever

"damaged." There’s a lot we can

do to make tomorrow better.

This resource draws together, in one place, information from the best and latest research for professionals and volunteers who help women and children.

Topics addressed include what children might feel, think and do during violent incidents against their mothers, roles they might adopt before, during or after incidents, strategies of coping and survival, and how violence may be experienced by children of different ages, from infancy to adolescence.

The purpose is to examine how violence against a mother can shape a child. By learning how each child as an individual was shaped by experiences in his or her home – and considering important contextual features of family life – we can devise ways to help.

‘little eyes , little ears’ how violence against a mother shapes children as they grow, by Alison Cunningham & Linda Baker the © 2007 Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System. Available at web site: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/nc-cn

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