How family violence between parents affects parents and children

If you’re a victim of family violence, family violence can hurt you in many ways – physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, sexually and more.

And if you’re a victim of family violence and a parent, family violence might also affect the relationship that you have with your children. It can affect your ability to give your children the love and attention they need.

If this is your situation, it’s important to know that family violence is never your fault. The perpetrator of family violence is responsible for it and the way it affects your family.

Family violence can harm your ability to parent and your relationship with your children in several ways.

This can happen if the perpetrator uses emotional abuse to undermine your relationship with your children. For example, the perpetrator might:

  • say nasty things about you to your children to turn them against you
  • force your children to call you names or disobey you
  • prevent you from spending quality time with your children.

Family violence might also affect your mental health. It’s pretty common for victims to experience depression, anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep problems, and self-medication with alcohol or other drugs. If you’re having mental health issues like these, it can be harder for you to deal with the challenges of parenting. For example, it might be really hard for you to:

  • manage the day-to-day care of younger children like feeding, bathing and play
  • find the interest and energy to tune in to your children and their needs
  • be patient and understanding with your children
  • use positive behaviour strategies to guide your children’s behaviour.

And family violence in the form of physical abuse can cause injuries that make it difficult for you to care for your children’s everyday needs. For example, if you have a broken bone or other serious injury, you might not be able to do things like bathing, changing nappies, or cooking meals for your children.

If you’re experiencing family violence, it might affect your ability to look after your children’s needs in the way you want to. But being a victim of family violence doesn’t make you a bad parent. It’s always the responsibility of the perpetrator to stop the violence.

How family violence between parents affects children

Family violence between parents is traumatic for children.

Children often know that family violence is going on between parents. And even if they don’t see it, hear it or experience it directly, they’re still affected by it. For example, just knowing that your partner is hurting you is distressing and traumatic for children.

Also, seeing the effects of violence is traumatic for your children. For example, children can be deeply affected by:

  • helping or caring for a parent after the parent has been abused
  • going to the doctor or hospital with a parent after the parent has been abused.

Children who are exposed to family violence might have:

  • behaviour problems like aggression, lack of emotional control and disobedience
  • social problems like difficulties talking to or playing with other children, sadness, and withdrawal from friends and family
  • trouble eating
  • bedwetting, nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • mood disorders like depression and anxiety
  • learning difficulties
  • low school attendance
  • problems at school like bullying, having difficulty making friends, or falling out with old friends.

What to do if you’re experiencing family violence

If you or your children are in immediate danger, call the police on 000.

If you need support to get away from the family violence, you have a few options:

  • Speak to your GP or child and family health nurse.
  • Call a telephone support service like 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
  • Speak to a trusted family member or friend for support.
With help, you can reverse the effects of family violence on your children. You can make things better for your children and your relationship with them. If you’re experiencing family violence, there are lots of people out there who can help you, so don’t be afraid to ask.