Intergenerational Healing: Trauma-Informed Practices for Children Affected by Domestic Abuse

Team TICS
January 13, 2024

In our professional roles, we frequently encounter children who have been exposed to domestic abuse. This blog aims to provide a succinct overview to understanding of trauma-informed practices, a vital approach in supporting these young individuals. By acknowledging and addressing the unique needs of children who have witnessed or experienced domestic abuse, we can pave the way for their healing and growth (Trotter 2020). 

The effects of domestic abuse on children are multifaceted and profound (Peckover, & Golding, 2017). TICS Associate, Jessica Parker adds, “It's not just the physical harm; the psychological and emotional scars can be deep and lasting”. These children often exhibit signs of trauma, such as heightened anxiety, behavioural changes, difficulty in concentrating, and in some cases, regression in developmental milestones (Sharratt, et al., 2023). Recognising these signs early is crucial for effective intervention.

Supporting children who have experienced domestic abuse requires targeted strategies that address their complex needs for safety, stability, and emotional healing. It is often helpful to prioritise establishing a stable environment where the child feels secure and protected, both physically and psychologically (Lynch, 2020). This involves creating clear, consistent routines and a calming atmosphere in spaces where the child spends time. Active listening and validating the child's feelings are essential, as is the use of gentle questioning that allows the child to share their experiences at their own pace and of course opportunities to express their inner world without the added chore of finding ways to articluate words that just may not exist yet; art, drama, music. Empowering the child through choice and age-appropriate decision-making can help restore a sense of control that abuse may have undermined (Roy et al., 2022).

Professionals should also facilitate expressive activities such as art or play, which can provide alternative outlets for children to communicate and process their feelings (Pliske et al., 2021). Collaboration with multidisciplinary teams, including educators, social workers, and mental health professionals, ensures a comprehensive support system, while culturally sensitive, trauma-focused therapeutic approaches, like Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT), can be vital in addressing the psychological impact of the abuse (Ennis et al., 2021).

Alongside this vital approach is ensuring that the same healing process is provided for the parents and carers, provided it is safe to do so, so as to educate them on how to support their child's emotional needs at home. But more importantly, so that they are in a position to do so.

Our Director Lisa Cherry adds,

“In undertaking this life course perspective we are also then engaged in thinking about the children yet to be born in this family while also potentially healing relationships with the adults who came before; we think beyond now in this moment and understand that we are engaged in an intergenerational moment offering a more dynamic lens to why we do what we do“

In conclusion, trauma-informed practices offer a beacon of hope for children affected by domestic abuse, illuminating a path toward recovery and resilience. The strategies and principles discussed throughout this blog encapsulate a holistic approach that not only acknowledges the multifaceted impact of abuse but also equips professionals with the tools necessary to foster a nurturing and empowering environment. As we continue to evolve and deepen our understanding of trauma-informed care, it is our collective responsibility to integrate these insights into our daily interactions with children. The collaborative efforts of caregivers, educators, and mental health professionals are pivotal in this endeavor, ensuring that each child who has experienced the shadows of domestic abuse can step into a future bright with possibility and support. It is through our dedicated and informed actions that we can make a lasting difference, helping children to not just survive, but thrive in the aftermath of trauma.

References

Cherry, L. (2021). Conversions That Make A Difference for Children and Young people; Relationships Focused Practice from the Frontline. Oxford: Routledge.

Ennis, N., Sijercic, I., & Monson, C. M. (2021). Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapies for posttraumatic stress disorder under ongoing threat: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review88, 102049.

Lynch, J. (2020). A whole person approach to wellbeing: building sense of safety. Routledge.

Peckover, S., & Golding, B. (2017). Domestic abuse and safeguarding children: critical issues for multiagency work. Child abuse review26(1), 40-50.

Pliske, M. M., Stauffer, S. D., & Werner-Lin, A. (2021). Healing from adverse childhood experiences through therapeutic powers of play:“I can do it with my hands”. International Journal of Play Therapy30(4), 244.

Roy, J., Williamson, E., Pitt, K., Stanley, N., Man, M. S., Feder, G., & Szilassy, E. (2022). ‘It felt like there was always someone there for us’: Supporting children affected by domestic violence and abuse who are identified by general practice. Health & social care in the community, 30(1), 165-174.

Sharratt, K., Mason, S. J., Kirkman, G., Willmott, D., McDermott, D., Timmins, S., & Wager, N. M. (2023). Childhood abuse and neglect, exposure to domestic violence and sibling violence: profiles and associations with sociodemographic variables and mental health indicators. Journal of interpersonal violence38(1-2), 1141-1162.

Trotter, C. (2020). Helping abused children and their families: Towards an evidence-based practice model. Routledge.

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