Support for children

If someone at home is hurting you or another member of your family, that is not okay.

What about my children?

It is important to remember that children are very resilient. With support, they can overcome the trauma of witnessing or experiencing abuse, and go on to live safe, happy lives.

Protecting your children from abuse.

It is common for abusive men to use children and child contact as a method of control. They might try to turn the children against you, or make threats to hurt them or take them away from you. This can continue long after a woman has left her partner.

Our team of dedicated child support workers play a huge role in helping to make children feel safe, welcome and secure.

  • Through play, children have an opportunity to explore their own experiences whilst developing their social skills by making friendships and having fun with other children.
  • We also offer support for children outside of our refuges, such as in one-stop shops or at safe locations in the community.

Frequently asked questions

Many children do cope with and survive abuse, displaying extraordinary resilience. However, the physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic abuse on children can also be severe and long-lasting. Some children may become withdrawn and find it difficult to communicate. Others may blame themselves for the abuse.

All children living with abuse are under stress. That stress may lead to any of the following:

  • Withdrawal
  • Aggression or bullying
  • Tantrums
  • Vandalism
  • Problems in school, truancy, speech problems, difficulties with learning
  • Attention seeking
  • Nightmares or insomnia
  • Bed-wetting
  • Anxiety, depression, fear of abandonment
  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Constant colds, headaches, mouth ulcers, asthma, eczema

Many people think that a child who has experienced domestic abuse will inevitably become a perpetrator or a victim of abuse later in life. This is not true. Growing up in a violent home is a risk factor and some children who experience abuse do go on to be abusive in their relationships. But many do not. Instead they are repelled by violence because they have seen the damage it causes; they would not dream of hitting their partner.

Talking openly with children about abuse they may have seen or experienced is an important step toward helping them process and cope with abuse.

  • Answer any questions they may have, as honestly as you are able, using words that match their age and stage of development
  • Make sure they know the abuse is not their fault
  • Teach them that abuse is not acceptable
  • Help them discuss their feelings. Bottling everything up can create additional pressure. Listen to what they have to say and respond with respect and understanding
  • Avoid burdening them with adult responsibilities. As much as they may want to help, it is not their job to look after you.
  • Encourage them to mix with other people. Contact with other people will make your children feel less isolated and boost their confidence. It is important for children to have the opportunity to see other men behaving respectfully towards their partners.
  • Help them to stay safe. Teach them to call 999 and speak to the police so they know how to get emergency help. But warn them that it is dangerous to intervene if you are being attacked. Tell them they are not responsible for protecting you.
  • Teach them to reach out for help by doing so yourself. Show them that getting help is a positive step and that there is nothing of which to be ashamed.
    Try to boost their self-esteem by letting them know you love them. Praise them and encourage their interests.

Refuge has a team of dedicated child support workers who play a huge role in helping to make children feel safe, welcome and secure. Through play, the children have an opportunity to explore their own experiences, whilst developing their social skills by making friendships and having fun with other children. We work collaboratively with other agencies and services — such as health, social care, education and police — to ensure that the children have all the support that they need. Our child support workers also provide respite care for mothers in the refuge by arranging play activities, cooking lessons, and art classes for children.