What do Children say they would like?

  • Someone to talk to – some children prefer individual support whilst some prefer support in a group setting.
  • Having someone to talk to who listens and understands, and who help a child explore issues relating to coping, self-esteem, confidence and feelings.
  • Having plans for keeping safe; having somewhere safe to go. 
  • Other people not necessarily intervening directly. 
  • Being able to access advice from other children who are living with domestic abuse. 
  • Being able to tell parents how you feel. 
  • Teachers who are more informed and understanding and open to talking to the children. 
  • Professionals having information on domestic violence; knowing who to ask and where to go for help. 
  • Supporting children to complete schoolwork. 
  • Ensuring discretion and privacy for children who want to see a school counsellor. 
  • Support for children who have to live in a refuge e.g. activities and someone to talk to – even someone who parents and children could talk to together. 
  • Having cuddly toys and possessions if you leave.

(Ideas taken from Buckley, Holt & Whelan, 2007; Mullender A et al., 2002).

Despite the obvious complexities involved in considering how best to support or work with a child who is living with parental domestic abuse, there is much that can be done. Much of this does not require specialist training, though it will be important to ensure that you are supported by a colleague (preferably a Manager) and to familiarise yourself with any organisational or local policies that you might need to follow. Much of what you can do is common sense and mirrors the natural response that one person has to another who is in trouble and distress.

It is likely, by the very nature of a child living with domestic abuse, that part of your response will be to support a child to report the abuse and seek specialist support, but there is still much that you can do. The evidence is clear that the most important of a range of protective factors and processes known to promote resilience is the stable and consistent presence of a supportive adult in the child’s life. › Read more on resilience 

For some children, this lifeline in an isolated, chaotic and scary environment may well be you.

There are some key principles which should form the basis of the response to children living with domestic abuse:

  1. Children need a safe and secure home environment.
  2. Children need to know that there are adults who will listen to them, believe them and shelter them.
  3. Children need a sense of routine.
  4. Children need support services to meet their needs.
  5. Children need to learn that domestic violence is wrong and learn non-violent methods of resolving conflicts.
  6. Children need adults to speak out and break the silence.

(taken from Unicef, 2006 p9)