Parenting After Violence
In families where children have been exposed to domestic violence, support from the non-offending parent is crucial in the healing process. This can be difficult because as part of the abuse batterers undermine victims’ relationships with their children by abusing and degrading them, often in front of the child.
- Harm to children is caused by the domestic violence and by the actions of the abuser, not by the mother’s failure to protect. Children are harmed by exposure to trauma, which may be complicated by directly being abused; by the abuser’s manipulation of children; and by the damage to the mother/child relationship
- Domestic violence compromises the victim’s ability to parent as she wishes and compromises the batterer’s capacity to parent as well
- Conduct by a battered mother that looks like poor parenting may in fact be an effort to protect herself and her children
- Protecting families from domestic violence is the responsibility of society, not battered women
*Information in this section was adapted from the website of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Helping Children Heal
It is important that victims/survivors of domestic violence are supported in their parenting after violence. They need to rebuild their parent child bond, while creating an environment of emotional and physical safety. Some factors that foster resiliency and healing in children who have been exposed to domestic violence include:
- Having a strong caring relationship with adults, including the non-offending parent.
- Relationships in the community (other siblings, family, peers, community groups.)
- Encouraging the child’s interests and abilities, praising their strengths.
- Encouraging participation in positive activities.
- Giving them opportunities to talk about events and express their feelings.
- Keeping them in a safe environment.
- Little Eyes, Little Ears: How Violence Against a Mother Shapes Children as they Grow by Alison Cunningham and Linda Baker (2007)
- Mothering Through Domestic Violence by Lorraine Radford and Marianne Hester (2006)
- The Batterer as a Parent by Lundy Bancroft (2002)