Most healthy, responsible parents don’t set out to hurt their child, either physically or emotionally. Our job is to protect, nurture, and unconditionally love them. We work hard to show them that we love them. It’s important to hug, talk, laugh, play, and guide them through their lives. We even shelter them from behavior that we know is detrimental to their development. We’ll also act as a shield, thinking that taking the brunt of negative behavior will prevent it from having any impact on our children. We couldn’t be more wrong.
When a sheltered child is from emotional abuse, their opinions and ideas begin to skew. Like looking through a foggy window, their limited vision is all they can see. And not being able to see will make them anxious about themselves, their parents, and their future. The impact of that anxiety will be felt for many years, and can manifest itself in a multitude of ways:
Even if your child never sees or hears an argument or fight, he or she will know when things aren’t okay between the two of you. This trust will lead to behavioral problems as he or she tries to get an answer to the mystery. As you continue to shield, your child will continue to act out, creating another cycle of dysfunction that is difficult to break and may very well continue into adulthood.
Even if you don’t outwardly show any signs of abuse or neglect, your child is very intuitive and will read between the lines and believe that the dynamic in a relationship is one of tension, uncertainty, and pain.
When your child grows up, watching you go through the motions, he or she may pick up on your dissatisfaction. Couple that with the mantra “life isn’t fair” and you’ve got something about which to be concerned. The last thing you want is for your child to think, “Life isn’t fair, so I should take what I get and not expect or ask for more.”
The number one predictor of child abuse is spousal abuse. Your spouse is more likely to begin abusing your child if they are already abusing you.
Even when the parent tried to keep the abuse “quiet,” 80-90% of children are aware of it.
Gender roles play very heavy into this. Although it is well-documented that women engage in abusive behavior, boys who see their father abuse their mother are more likely to grow up to be the abuser. Girls that witness abusive behavior by their mother are more likely to be offensive in their relationships.
If you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship, with or without children, please do not wait to get help. Get to a safe place, file a protective order (if necessary), and speak with one of our attorneys to begin the legal process of separation or divorce.
It will not get better. You cannot protect your children from indirect or direct damage resulting from abuse. The best chance at a healthy and happy life for yourself and your children is to be in a safe and nurturing environment.
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