Signs your child may not be coping

Family violence is a serious social issue that affects everyone in a family – children, parents and other members of the extended family. Extensive research confirms the devastating impact family violence can have on children’s lives and their physical and emotional development. Family violence can affect children in many ways. Living in a tense or frightening environment and ‘walking on eggshells’ may cause children to feel the same fear, intimidation and threat to their safety as those that are the direct victims of violence.

Some children and young people might show signs that their situation is affecting them and others may keep their feelings inside. It’s important that you can recognise the signs that your child may not be coping so you can take steps to provide support.

Some signs can include:

  • copying the abusive or violent behaviour
  • sleeping difficulties, for example having nightmares
  • trying to intervene and stop the abuse
  • being stunned into a terrified silence by what they’ve witnessed
  • blaming themselves
  • feeling frustrated, angry or depressed
  • bullying others or being bullied
  • regressive behaviours like bed-wetting or thumb-sucking
  • being nervous or withdrawn
  • changes in behaviour and concentration at school
  • displaying illnesses including: unexplained head or tummy aches, asthma or stuttering
  • running away from home
  • attempting suicide or self-harming
  • abusing alcohol or other substances.

If you are concerned about your own child or any child that is affected by family violence, it’s important to know that help is available.

How to help children

Parents and carers of any child who may be affected by domestic and family violence can assist by:

  • being aware that domestic and family violence harms children too
  • educating children that there is never any excuse for abuse and violence
  • providing reassurance that the abuse and violence is not the child’s fault
  • telling the child that he or she is loved
  • organising support at school by talking to a teacher, principal or guidance officer
  • encouraging the child to talk about their feelings
  • seeking support with counselling
  • ensuring the child knows the emergency number 000 and how to seek this help.


How to get help

Centacare offers a safe and supportive space for those impacted by domestic and family violence. Visit domestic and family violence counselling to find out more.