“They only fought when they thought I was asleep,” said the 8 year old girl. Her mother told me later that she thought she was protecting her daughter from the fighting. She said, “He only took it out on me, he never yelled at her.” But her daughter was still in my office for trauma related to domestic violence.
There is a tendency to think of our intimate relationships as feelings that are just between two partners. Even if it’s just the adults interacting; those interactions have shock waves that are felt by everyone in the home. And those shock waves can be massive.
Despite the deep impact violence, both verbal and physical, has on children; rarely can a child articulate its effects.
Usually, the child expresses their feelings through behavior. Often called “acting out” behaviors, these behaviors are disruptive, aggressive and annoying. Often school staff and other professionals may mistake the acting out behaviors for evidence of Attention Deficit Hyper Active Disorder (ADHD) when really it the emotionally charged environment at home that the child is reacting to.
When you have chronic problems with your partner, you’re kids feel those shock waves. It leaves them confused and wondering about lots of things. They wonder if you’re putting up with abuse, are they supposed to as well. They’re wondering if they are going to get be the main target next. They are wondering who their safe person is, because if one parent is powerless and the other is scary, then who will keep me safe?
When kids are present, they are involved in your intimate relationships because they get hit with the same emotional
shockwave as you do. Take some time to consider how your kids are responding to your intimate relationship.
Matt Williams, The Center for Violence Free Relationships