Pre-teen and teenage violence in the home: what is it?
Pre-teen and teenage violence in the home is when a child or young person harms, threatens or abuses a parent, sibling or other family member. It includes:
- verbal abuse
- emotional abuse
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse or sexual assault
- intimidation and coercion
- destruction of property
- demands for money
- threats of harm.
If your family is experiencing teenage violence in your home, seeking support is the best thing you can do for your family and your child. With the right support, you can repair your family relationships and get your child’s development back on track.
Getting support when you’re experiencing pre-teen or teenage violence in your home
You can get support for yourself. This might include parenting advice and support, counselling, and specialist domestic and family violence support.
It might help your other children to talk to someone outside the family about their experiences and concerns. Counselling can also help them recover from the trauma associated with experiencing sibling violence.
To find the right support for yourself and your other children, contact:
- your GP, child and family health nurse or other health professional
- 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or 1800RESPECT’s online chat service
- your state or territory parent helpline
- Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277
- specialist domestic and family violence support services in your state or territory.
Support for your child who uses violence can help to stop the violence. That’s because support can help your child understand and better manage thoughts and emotions related to violence, which can help with changing their behaviour.
If the pre-teen or teenage violence is physical: what to do
During a violent episode
If your teenage child is behaving violently, these strategies can keep everyone safe:
- Stay calm.
- Limit what you say.
- Call for help. For example, call a friend or family member.
- Go to a safe place in your home.
- If you need to, leave your home and go to a safe place to wait for help.
It’s OK to call the police if you fear for your own or someone else’s safety.
After a violent episode: talking with your child
It’s a good idea to talk with your child when they’re calm. But talk only if you think you can do this in a way that won’t trigger another outburst.
These ideas can help:
- Focus on your child’s behaviour and how you feel about it. For example, ‘I felt scared and was worried for you when you smashed the glass this morning’.
- Avoid comments about your child’s personality or character. For example, say, ‘I feel frightened when you push me’ rather than ‘You’re rude’ or ‘You’re violent’.
- Listen actively when your child talks, and tune in to their behaviour as well as their words. This can help you understand your child’s emotions before, during and after the violence.
- Acknowledge your child’s emotions. For example, ‘It seems like you felt very angry’.
- Try to find out what’s behind the violent behaviour. For example, ‘If your violent actions were words, what might you say?’
- Encourage your child to consider other ways of managing their emotions – for example, going for a run, listening to music or meditating.
If you’re concerned about your safety or the safety of other family members, it’s best to seek professional support before talking to your child.
A safety plan for violent situations can cover:
- strategies that work best for your child and family
- safe places for yourself and your other children – at home or other places
- people who can help – for example, a neighbour who can call police if they hear violence or friends who can collect your other children.
It’s important to talk with your other children about your safety plan, so they know where to go, who to call for help and how to call 000. You might need to adapt what you say for children of different ages.
How pre-teen and teenage violence in the home affects family members
You and other adults
If you’re experiencing teenage violence in the home, it can hurt you in many ways – physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and financially.
You might have physical injuries. You might also feel scared, confused or ashamed.
Siblings and other children
Sibling fighting is common. But if siblings are the direct target of physical, verbal or emotional violence, they might feel very unsafe. They might also be hurt in various ways by the violence.
If siblings know about or see a teenage sibling’s use of violence towards another family member, it can be distressing and traumatic. They might feel responsible for protecting you or their other siblings.
The violence can make siblings feel sad, depressed or anxious. It might be hard for them to manage these emotions. They might withdraw from you, your extended family and their friends. They might develop social and academic problems at school. And they might have eating and sleeping difficulties.
Family violence is never OK. If you’re experiencing family violence from your partner, ex-partner or teenage child, it’s not your fault, and there are no excuses for it. Seeking support is the best thing you can do for your child, your family and yourself.