Support for children

Children living with domestic violence may need extra support to feel safe and positive about the future. Cocooning them in love, keeping routines the same and surrounding them with kind, caring people will help. There are simple ways to do this.

Reassure

Tell your child none of the violence is their fault and they are loved—and keep telling them. Allow them to talk about the violence if they want to. Keep your language simple and don’t include more detail than they need to know. You can explain that the person who was violent made some poor choices … and that nothing the child did caused the behaviour. Try not to be overly critical of the abuser, as this can make a child feel more confused.

Understanding the Safety Plan

Contact 1800 Respect to help create an age-appropriate safety plan for your child. This will reassure them that there is a plan for their safety. You could draw or paint a picture of the plan together, type it up on the computer, or, for younger children, act it out using toys.

Routines, rituals and feelings

Keep as much of the daily routine the same as possible. This includes any bedtime routines, TV shows they like to watch, food they like etc. Remember that your children will have a range of feelings that may come out at different times—they may be confused about their feelings for their dad and for you. This is normal. Help them label their feelings gently, with words, pictures or drawings. Reassure them that they are right to have these feelings, and that they will be okay.

Behaviour

Your child’s behaviour may be affected by the stress and their confused feelings.

Depending on their age and personality, they may:

  • hit or yell
  • have extreme reactions to small things
  • show less feelings or reactions than you would expectwithdraw
  • cry more
  • become very anxious
  • bed wet
  • have nightmares
  • go backwards in some of their development, learning and social skills.
  • use alcohol or drugs
  • be more defiant
  • avoid school
  • have trouble with friends.

Try to stay calm and show them love with words and kindness, even when it seems very difficult. They are more likely to settle if you can stay calm. Reassure them that they are loved and things will get better.

If they have many outbursts that are hard for you to manage, seek professional help through your GP or case worker. The Raising Children Network has good tips to help manage behaviour.

Get help

Your child’s kinder, pre-school, childcare or school will be able to provide support for your child. If you feel comfortable, let them know that your child has some extra worries and seek extra nurturing and understanding for them.

You’ll find more helpful advice on how to have tricky conversations with children and teens on the Raising Children’s Network site.

Helpful contacts for children and young people

If your child is:

  • at school, TAFE or university you can seek support through their education provider, if you feel comfortable doing so. Talk to the welfare officer, counsellor or student well-being coordinator. Schools often have counsellors or psychologists your child can access free of charge
  • aged 8 to 25 contact Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800). They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, free of charge. Counsellors can also chat online at Kids Helpline.
  • aged 12 to 25 eHeadspace offers free online counselling for young people aged 12 to 25 and their families.
  • aged 12 to 25 Headspace offers free or low cost face-to-face support for young people aged 12 to 25, and their families. Centres are located around Australia: contact the centre near you directly for an appointment.

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