When discussing domestic violence with survivors, the conversation tends to turn quickly to keeping children safe. Tammy, one of our counselors here at the VPC, put together a few things to keep in mind, think through, and discuss with children who are experiencing domestic violence.
Discuss safety planning with your children often and ahead of a situation becoming dangerous. One of the first topics we discuss with children in counseling is safety planning if they are around adult fighting. Our bodies have natural instincts to fight, flight, or freeze when danger is detected. Children also have the natural instinct to want to protect their parent who is being hurt. It is important to encourage your child to think of a safe place to go so that they do not get in the middle of violence. While safety planning it is important to cover the importance of not getting in the middle of the fight, but instead encourage kids to think of what they can do to protect their family. For many children, this could include getting help, calling 911, or going to a neighbor to alert them to the violence. We encourage children to think of the spaces in their residence and which ones are the safest to go to during a fight. Often these rooms include rooms with doors to the outside or a door with a lock and away from the fighting. For many children, their bedroom is their safe place. We encourage all children and survivors to move away from high-risk areas such as the kitchen or garage when they sense that tensions are high, and violence could occur. These areas have more items to be used as weapons which can increase the severity or lethality of the situation.
Help your child learn their address and phone number. Domestic Violence can sometimes cause the family to move frequently. Review with your children the address where you are currently staying in case they need to get help. In the past landlines made calling for help easier to safety plan. Now with cell phones, there are many variables to consider, where to find the phone? Is it password protected? Is it charged? Sometimes children may have their own cell phones or a hidden extra phone to access. Plan with your children about who to call and when if a safety issue arises. Educate your children on how to call 911 which will typically work even if the phone does not have service or minutes. Many children want to help their family in times of stress. Teaching them the helpful tools and their own rolls can help keep them safe as well as lessen the time the violence occurs if help is on the way.
If you need assistance with safety planning please call
Violence Prevention Center's 24-hour Hotline - 618-236-2531
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233