Thank you for taking the time to visit us. This program was developed in conjunction with some of the world’s leading researchers on childhood exposure to domestic violence to fulfill an unmet need. There is no other program like it in the world today.
It was built using the best and most promising practices available in working with children who experience domestic violence. Our goal is to provide caring adults with the tools to connect with and support children and teens.
Approximately 15 million children are growing up with domestic violence in the U.S. alone. As many as 40 million adults are likely to have been exposed to domestic violence over their lifetime.
Through this program, you will gain essential skills in how to talk to children and teens about their experiences, provide them with support in coping with the violence, and inspire hope to help them choose a different path.
How to Use the Program
GO STEP BY STEP
This program is divided into 4 main consecutive sections to help you learn skills and gain tools to help children experiencing domestic violence. To receive the full benefit of this program, please go through these four sections in the following order:
- STEP 1: LEARN provides information about children’s experiences with domestic violence.
- STEP 2: CONNECT provides concrete skills and tools to connect with and support children experiencing domestic violence.
- STEP 3: SUPPORT gives real-life examples of how you can apply these skills and tools in different situations to support children experiencing domestic violence.
- STEP 4: HELP teaches you how to inspire children and teens experiencing domestic violence, help in other ways, or submit a success story.
We have also provided specific resources for caregivers in the FOR CAREGIVERS section, which you can visit after you’ve explored the 4 main STEPS in the program. You can also find additional resources under the RESOURCES section. The REGISTRATION tab will collect a bit of information, so we can email you your completion certificate plus more information about how to support children experiencing domestic violence or other ways to help make a difference.
It’s common for children and teens to not respect the authority of the parent who is being abused. Abuse often reinforces a relationship model where the abusive parent is seen as the authority figure who demonstrates how the non-abusive parent should be treated. It is also common for a parent who is being abused to feel guilty about their children’s exposure or exhausted by their consequential behavior, but this should not discourage them from helping their children learn clear boundaries and limits to their behavior. Parents are in a unique position to positively prepare their children for their future.
There are a number of things parents can do to help their children cope and to teach their children to make good choices. You can:
CREATE A SAFETY PLAN: Help children and teens develop a plan for safety. You might start this conversation by asking, “What do you do when you are scared of [the abusive person]? What are things you can do to stay safe? What are ways I can help you?”
HELP THEM IDENTIFY FEELINGS: For instance, you might say, “I was feeling really scared. How were you feeling?
HELP THEM LEARN LIMITS: Set firm limits on how children and teens may or may not act in order to teach them respectful behavior. This includes teaching children and teens to say “please” and “thank you.” Set clear consequences when they are disrespectful, such as “time outs” whenever possible. Recognize these limits may not be upheld if your partner who is abusive is around, but when you can, be firm. Consistency helps to develop positive habits and actions when interacting with people.
DEVELOP ROUTINES: Provide children and teens with as much routine as possible. This includes mealtimes, bedtime, and creating a routine when transitioning between activities or leaving the house. For example, “It’ll be time for bed in 10 minutes” or “We’ll be leaving in 15 minutes, so everyone needs to have their shoes and coats on in 10 minutes.” This provides them with the space and time to transition to the next activity.
TEACH GOOD BOUNDARIES: Explain to children there are boundaries in life that need to be respected. For example, “This is your body and no one has the right to touch it.” If you are playing with a young person and they ask you to stop, respect their voice and stop. This helps model respecting boundaries. This also reinforces with children and teens that it is okay to assert themselves in a respectful manner.
DISCUSS THE VIOLENCE: Don’t be afraid to discuss the violence the child or teen may be witnessing or experiencing. Don’t lie about or excuse abusive behaviors. For example, “When [the abusive person] acts that way, I feel really scared and helpless. I am so sorry you have to see that. You can always talk to me about if you need to.” This provides you with an opportunity to get the child or teen talking about feelings and fears. It also allows you to explain unacceptable behaviors.
FOSTER STRONG RELATIONSHIPS: Build social connections and bonds with friends and family, to create a social support network for your children. If possible, enroll them in youth activities and encourage them to develop relationships with other caring adults who are good role models (e.g., aunts, uncles, coaches, etc.).
INSPIRE HOPE: Explain to children and teens that their life does not need to be defined by the violence they are experiencing. Help them to understand other ways of living and that many children who experience domestic violence in their childhood grow up to live very healthy and happy lives. You may say to them, “I am sorry this is happening to you. You are not responsible for any of the violence. I want you to know that this doesn’t define you. You get to choose your path.”
GET OTHER RESOURCES: If it is safe for you to do so, read through some of these recommended parenting books and websites.
- The Batterer as a Parent by Lundy Bancroft
- K.I.S.S. (A Kid Is So Special): Strengthening Mother-Child Bonds by Beth Bitler
- Additional resources can be found in the RESOURCES section.
LEAVING: If you want to leave an abusive relationship, here are some helpful resources:
- Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Book: When Love Goes Wrong by Ann Jones and Susan Schechter
A child’s own safety plan that can be completed and printed out
Domestic Violence Resources and Service Providers
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Staffed 24 hours a day by trained counselors who can provide crisis assistance and information about shelters, legal advocacy, health care centers, and counseling.
State Coalitions on Domestic Violence
You may contact your state coalition to get more information on local resources or to volunteer your time to help prevent domestic violence.
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Since 1993 the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) has been a comprehensive source of information for those wanting to educate themselves and help others on the many issues related to domestic violence.
3605 Vartan Way, Suite 101
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Battered Women’s Justice Project
125 South 9th Street, Suite 302
Philadelphia, PA 19107
1-800-903-0111 ext. 3
Domestic Violence in the Workplace
Communities of Faith & Domestic Violence
Books for Children
I Do and I Don’t Coloring Book by Fred Rogers
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret Holmes
Understanding Myself: A kid’s guide to intense emotions and strong feelings by Mary C. Lamia
Books for teens
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Split by Swati Avasthi
Change a Life is the result of many contributors’ ideas and the best and promising practices in supporting children exposed to domestic violence.
We would like to thank Casey Keene, VAWnet Manger at the National Resources Center on Domestic Violence, who shared her expertise and personal experiences throughout the development of this project. In addition, we would like to thank Professor Renee McDonald for her knowledge and expertise in helping us develop and refine the key concepts and messages for the website. We would also like to acknowledge Ruby White Starr of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and Professor Sandra Graham Bermann at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor for the audio and video content.
Professor Jeffrey L. Edleson, Jennifer Witt, and Ericka Kimball of the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse (MINCAVA) were the primary staff who worked on the original content for this project. This website design was developed by Kristin Dean and Karen Sheahan with the assistance of Kevin Bullock, the MINCAVA systems manager. Finally, we thank all of the people who provided feedback on these materials.
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