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Opinions of Friday, 9 October 2015

Columnist: Abigail Esi Otabil

Domestic abuse: its toll on children

Just like adults, children have issues that worry them. From a general perspective, the life of a child does not depict that he or she is worried about something, since most children are likely to show happy moods all times, depending on their surroundings or circumstances.

However, children have their worries, and it is important for parents and guardians to be aware of these and act to help children manage and overcome them.
The subsequent paragraphs of this article discuss various types of domestic abuse that tend to seriously impact on the lives and welfare of children.

Sexual assault
This is a major childhood abuse in our communities. The major concern is whether such cases are reported and the culprits are dealt with by the law. Some of the questions to be answered are: What happens to a young girl who gets assaulted sexually? What would be the psychological trauma she would go through and how would this impact on her life? Does she feel safe in the community? How would her peers relate to her after such an incident comes to light?

Are such girls deceived by men because they provide them with, for instance, food, clothing and love, which they do not get from home? What support systems do we have as a country to help these girls and others who have similar experiences?
One could go on asking many questions, but readers are advised to ponder on these questions and see how serious and detrimental such acts have on children. The bigger question is: What about those cases that never get reported, seen or heard?

Quarrels between parents
Children from homes where violent disagreements or quarrels occur frequently tend to experience abuses of different kinds. Abuses are not always physical injuries; it could be emotional or verbal. When parents quarrel in the presence of their children, the children experience emotional abuse because they can sense the friction between their parents.

Emotions of children
Another dangerous form of domestic abuse is emotional abuse, which affects the emotions of a child. It is dangerous because it is difficult to detect if a child is experiencing it.

A child who constantly witnesses violence and disagreements at home is more likely to grow up with emotional and behavioural problems. Such children would keep their emotions to themselves and grow up with anxiety problems. They are more likely to misbehave, cry excessively with no reason and feel unhappy most of the time. They are more likely to depict some of the symptoms of a child experiencing bullying.
Children who also suffer beatings from parents and other adults at home tend to sustain bruises all over their bodies and that can affect their feelings.

Alternative means
Parents should find alternative means of dealing with their problems or difficult issues. Parents should try and solve their differences, arguments or quarrels without drawing the attention of their children or involving them. Children should not know about the quarrels or misunderstandings that occur between their parents. Children should be made to enjoy their lives as children and not as intermediaries when their parents fight.

Parents should strive to achieve this, as such incidents affect children in many ways. For instance, a child can grow up with the mentality that it is right to beat women because he saw his father beating his mother all the time. In addition, the performance of children at school can be affected, not to talk about the effects they have on their emotions.

Extra vigilance
Parents and guardians should be interested in the people their children and wards get involved with. Parents should occasionally visit their children’s schools to enquire about their progress with school activities, as well as their general behaviour. In addition, parents should make conscious efforts to know the friends of their children. As a parent, you can not allow your child to visit friends you hardly know.

Invite the friends of your children home and try to engage them in conversations. It helps to know who your children are involved with so that corrective measures can be taken in case they are influencing your children negatively. Also, do not trust people you hardly know with your children; do not leave your child with a neighbour who hardly knows your child but rather get help from trusted family or friends.

Family time
Parents need to have frequent family meetings, where children are given the needed counselling and encouraged to share their concerns. From experience, children or teenagers alike tend to listen more in a quiet and stable environment.

Screaming or insulting children will not make them change their bad attitudes; explaining their wrong behaviour to them and giving them punishment, for example not allowing them to visit their friends’ house to play for two days, will give them an opportunity to think through their actions.

The writer is the Founder & Author of WOMCHILD & COUPLECLICK BLOGS. www.womchild.com and www.coupleclick.net