Children will try almost anything and everything to try and make sense of what is going on in their lives and find a way to deal with it.
Often, how children cope will be entangled with the complex, delicate, unpredictable and volatile situations in which they live, meaning that their attempts to cope will often be borne out of feelings of anxiety, fear and guilt.
Many children will feel, and indeed many will have been told, that they are to blame for what is going on and their ways of coping will reflect this. Younger children can find it particularly hard to find effective ways of coping because their lives are so much more dependent on their parents and the home environment; older children have the options of escaping or being involved with friends, education, sport, outside interests etc.
Some children will mirror the behaviour that they see in their parents, being violent, getting drunk or mirroring the behaviour of the parent who is usually the victim of the drunk and violent incidents. The research evidence is clear that children are more adversely affected by the disruption and disharmony that accompanies violence and aggression and drinking than by the drinking itself and how they cope will often reflect this.
Usually I just go to my room and stay there alone, even after the fighting stops. I play with my cat until dinner time. By then pa would be asleep and it is ok to watch TV with mummy. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep and mummy comes to wake me up. This happens lots - about every two weeks in winter, but less in summer when father stays away from home.
I get angry, I scream, I go to my room and am sad, sometimes I withdraw into myself to avoid arguments. If I realise that an argument is about to start I try to get in between them to stop it; but if everyone starts insulting me, I go to my room and try to distract myself by listening to music.
I am sad, I sit in my room, doing nothing, I have difficulty falling asleep, and when I do my sleep is very disturbed, with nightmares. Sometimes I hear voices telling me to ‘escape’. I feel very nervous a lot of the time and I feel very angry and aggressive at school.
I try to avoid conflict, to not be present, to go out to another room.
I destroy something: I throw something against a wall or a house or a tree. This makes me feel free and relieved. Sometimes I walk around outside: then I can think and try to cope with what I experienced. Sometimes I cry at my girlfriend’s.
Nowadays, I leave the house; but when I was younger I played and pretended not to notice that anything was going on.
Quotes taken from data collected as part of ENCARE’S ALC-VIOL study. ›› Download it here [pdf]