Thursday, 5 July 2012

Parenting Beyond the Violence and Abuse

So can the non-abusive parent, usually but not always a Mum but I will refer to them this way as its shorter than non-abusive parent, turn things around post abuse for the family?  In practical terms it is always an uphill struggle, they may have moved into a refuge, escaping the abuse but losing everything they had and everyone they knew.  Children may be very confused, yet relieved but may also miss the abuser and have mixed feelings about wanting to see him again.  There is a great sense of loss and upheaval and getting a new home, an income and the children's schools sorted take priority over everything else so parenting can be a bit ad hoc as they get through to the next stage of finding a home.

The whole family is reeling from the abuse and loss and may be living communally in the refuge with other families in a similar state and this does not always unite them as, in some cases, women and children are so traumatised and reactive that they clash and replicate the chaos and aggression they are used too.  Families who get to stay in their own home, and I have not known many for whom that has worked out well, often have a 'honeymoon' period where they can live with out 'his' rules and constant stress and fear which is wonderful for them.  However, the children's trauma would then gradually come out in behaviour which was hard to parent, especially as the Mum would be trying to deal with her own trauma, the loss of her partner and keeping the family afloat.

Children's trauma can be expressed in a range of ways and this can often be challenging and alarming and hard work to understand and to parent.  It may be, as is very common, that they struggle to go to bed, to get to sleep and to stay in their own beds.  This can lead to busy, hectic nights where limited sleep is had by everyone.  They may have anxieties around food and eating, they may start soiling themselves or behaving like a much younger child, the list goes on but most of all they may be aggressive, explosive and out of control.  Of course, children who have not lived with domestic violence and abuse can also go through periods of any of these behaviours but they are usually a transition and if handled well will soon pass.

For families where there has long been the threat of or actual violence or severe control or daily abuse and ridicule the effects have become ingrained in both the parent and the children so it will take time to come out the other side and a specific parenting approach, which needs to be replicated in school and preschool and by everyone in close contact with them.  The training and parenting programme I have developed teach this approach and my hope is that they will be widely taken up by practitioners, parents and carers and close family members.  I have known several families that fully embraced the programme and the outcomes have been amazing for all of them but it is ongoing and not just a family 'diet' but more a change in attitudes and thinking for life.
 For more information on my training in Bristol in September for practitioners -, places still available, contact me directly for a booking form

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