How to Talk to Children About Violence?

If your children saw and are still seeing violence at home, it is very important to talk about it to them, even though it is very difficult. Many people who experience violence do not want to talk about it to children. It may seem that it would be safer to pretend that nothing is happening. But children see and understand everything, therefore quite often they blame themselves for violence. 

How do children feel when observing violent relationship?

  • Helpless as they cannot stop violence
  • Lonely as it seems to them that they are the only one experiencing this
  • Confused as they do not understand why this is happening
  • Angry as violence should not happen
  • Guilty as they blame themselves for violence
  • Scared as they are afraid of loosing parents, be hurt themselves or that their friends will find out
  • Sad as they loose the possibility to simply be children

What can you do?

  • First of all, ask what they feel and try to hear and understand them for real
  • Let them say what they feel with regard to the perpetrator
  • Assure them that violence is not their fault and tell them you love them and want to protect them
  • Recognise their feelings and right to feel anger, fear, sadness
  • Understand that they might not want to talk straight away
  • Always be calm and respectful towards children
  • Consider seeing a child psychologist
  • Have a structured routine

What should children who experience violent parent behaviour know?

That violence is not a norm and that it is not their fault; that it is normal to feel fear; that you are always ready to hear them; that they can freely tell you what they feel; that you are sorry for what they had to experience; that there was nothing they could do to prevent violence from happening; that they do not deserve this in their family, that you will protect them.

If you do not talk about violence to children, the violence is denied or there is pretence that nothing is happening, children might think that violence is a norm, they might feel confused, blame themselves, hide, deny and not want to express their feelings. They might feel isolated from their friends, learn not to talk about violence, have unrealistic beliefs about the causes of violence.