CHARACTERISTICS OF ABUSIVE FAMILIES
This post is part of a continuing series about child abuse and parenting. At the end of this article are links to the other posts on this subject. If the links do not work, go to www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com , click on the folder CHILD ABUSE ISSUES, and scroll down the posts to find answers to your questions. Also, check the folder: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
Since families consider alcoholism and/or abusiveness a “family secret,” homes with these issues present teach children and other family members three key lessons: DON’T TALK, DON’T TRUST, DON’T FEEL.
TALKING enables individuals to both share ideas and approach problems—stating them, defining them and solving them.
Alcoholic and abusive homes deny key destructive behaviors and their underlying, scary issues. They believe that if “it” (the behavior) is ignored, “it” will go away, and “it” will not hurt. Talk gives behavior reality: realities must be dealt with.
The “secrecy” created by not talking makes a child feel different, since others do not share his/her experience. At the same time, they view their life as “normal.”
TRUST is the confidence and faith in someone, having a feeling of safety. Alcoholic and/or abusive homes give a child mixed messages—verbal assurance that (nothing is wrong) with the experienced behavior, yet the sky is falling in (mother is crying but says nothing is wrong). The security of knowing what to expect is absent. Trust in self, parents and behavior is lost.
FEELINGS are inborn environmental and interpersonal relationship responses, a means of survival. In alcoholic and/or abusive homes, a child becomes confused and desperate when he/she is told s/he doesn’t hurt, when he does; that he/she is happy when s/he is sad, etc. S/he learns to deny or repress the unacknowledged feelings.
Ultimately, recognizing feelings confronts him/her with a scary truth: his parents, his “gods,” are unable to protect him. S/he learns low self-value and guilt. Lies become necessary to cover up unpleasant realities; sharing with others stops since they are not seen as resources, and emotional isolation begins.
A woman is concerned that her husband plays too rough with our baby son. The baby loves it when his father tosses him high into the air and catches him. Although the father says that this does not hurt the baby, the wife is worried. Is she over reacting?
Not really. In infants and small children, the neck is very weak and the head is heavy. Tossing can cause the brain to violently strike the hard inside of the skull and injure the neck, ending up with possible brain damage, even death.
In an emergency, will your child accept a ride with just anyone?
In emergencies, parents ask for help. Both parent and child need assurance that help comes from a parent-approved person.
Prepare by creating a code word. Use an unusual word, not some popular word or phrase. Make it silly or made-up, but be sure you and your child know it. The child should not go with anyone who does not communicate the code word.
It’s always an exciting time of the year. In winter, the white covering makes beauty. In spring, life is sprouting all around you. In summer, nature’s tree greens and flower rainbows color the world. In fall, falling leaves of bronzes, yellows and reds cover the walkways.
Take short, frequent walks with your child and examine nature. Use nature books to identify and explore the nature around you—birds and growth. Measure growths of plants weekly. Your child can draw pictures of plants while watching their life cycle.