Research shows that children who witness violence, are involved in the violence between their parents, or are subjected to violence, can suffer high levels of physical problems, eating disorders and sleeping problems. Children can moreover develop emotional and behavioral difficulties, which can affect them for the rest of their lives.
Children, who experience violence at home, are filled with a great sense of fear. The cruelties which take place at home, the place where they should feel secure, transforms their home into a battle field. Children never know when the next violent episode will occur. They are in a constant state of alarm, as their lives are unpredictable. New and scary cruelties can occur at any time. Children, who live in a constant state of alarm, can easily misinterpret and over exaggerate hints. A conflict, which may seem insignificant to others, can in their minds be transformed into grave insults, which can trigger aggressive behavior to others, or to themselves.
Children’s behavioral reactions to traumatic experiences vary widely. Some children react with strong violent behavior towards others, while other children react passively, or with both these reactions.
The problems children experience can show themselves via their drawings or play. Children can furthermore attempt to tell adults about their problems in vague wording, to find out if the adults in question can understand their problems. It is therefore important that teachers and others working with children are aware of children’s behavior and take time to listen and perceive them from the perspective of the child.
Children cannot review their situation. They have few experiences and a very limited standard of reference. They therefore need help from adults to see more than the current difficulties in which they live. Children cannot know what the norm is in normal well-functioning families. They can only relate to the reality which they see, hear and feel. This is why they need to be seen, heard and taken seriously in their own reality, in a manner which is non-judgemental with regards to their families.
Children respond differently to violence. This is partly because children are different and partly because their circumstances are different.
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