Effects for Children Exposed to Family Violence



  • Grief for family and personal losses
  • Shame, guilt, and self blame
  • Confusion about conflicting feelings toward parents
  • Fear of: abandonment, expressing emotions, the unknown or injury
  • Anger
  • Depression and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness
  • Embarrassment


  • Refusing to go to school
  • Care taking; acting as a parent substitute
  • Lying to avoid confrontation
  • Rigid defenses
  • Excessive attention seeking
  • Bedwetting and nightmares
  • Reduced intellectual competency
  • Manipulation, dependency, mood swings


  • Isolation from friends and relatives
  • Difficulty in trusting, especially adults
  • Poor anger management and problem solving skills
  • Passivity with peers or bullying
  • Engaged in exploitative relationships as perpetrator or victim


  • Somatic complaints, headaches and stomachaches
  • Nervous, anxious, short attention span
  • Tired and lethargic
  • Frequently ill
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Regression in development
  • High risk play
  • Self abuse

Messages for Children

  • Identify adults you can trust and talk to when something is happening in your house
  • You don’t need to keep secrets when you feel sad or scared
  • You are not to blame for the violence in your home when one parent hurts the other
  • Do NOT get in the middle of a fight
  • Identify escape routes from the house and where to meet outside
  • Establish a code word to go to a safe place when things are escalating
  • It’s okay to feel mixed up about things
  • Anger and frustrations are okay, aggression is not
  • It is okay to feel angry with mom and/or dad. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them
  • It is okay to like the abusive parent and at the same time not like them when they are violent and hurting family members
  • You need to keep yourself safe when a parent is hurting the other parent
  • There are ways you can help your parent:
  • Call the police (911)
  • Go to your safe place you have planned about before
  • Go to a neighbor’s house
  • Keep your younger brother/sister in a safe place

Tips for Communicating with Children

  • Talk to children at their level
  • Make eye contact but understand that they may not be able to do that with you
  • Respect the child’s space and try to notice her/his level of comfort with your closeness or touch
  • Speak slowly and simply
  • Ask simple, age appropriate questions
  • Engage in small talk to establish rapport
  • Explain what is happening
  • Let the child tell her/his story
  • Believe the child
  • Do not make promises that you cannot keep
  • Reassure the child
  • Be clear with the child about what information you will have to share with others
  • When talking with children who are reluctant to speak, children generally feel less threatened if they have a favorite stuffed animal or toy to relate to
  • Be honest—use caution about sharing too much

C Call 911
A Avoid getting trapped in small places
R Remember to bring your brother/sister with you
E Escape to a safe place

If you suspect child abuse and neglect than you can call New Hampshire DCYF at (800) 894-5533 (in-state) or (603) 271-6562. If you need support with this process you can contact us.

Voices Against Violence are mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect.