That said, sometimes emotional child abuse is extremely difficult to detect from the outside. So, can you help an emotionally abused child—when the child himself or herself may not understand s/he is being abused or when you don’t have enough tangible evidence to alert authorities?
Yes, you can do a lot.
Give the children in your life (whether students, nephews, nieces, etc.) respect, dignity, and a listening ear. A child who is emotionally abused may not be able to voice what is happening in their home life but they will feel crippling loneliness and lingering sorrow—and the kind, thoughtful words of an adult in his/her life will make a huge difference. Your attention, kindness, and respect will give the child a sense of how healthy people treat one another.
Discuss emotional abuse and its impact on children. Use the resources here. You can also download the following printables and share them:
- Words Hurt poster by the Children’s Trust Fund Organization
- Words Hurt poster (boy) by the Children’s Trust Fund organization
- “1 in 4 Trusted Adults” online toolkit (a positive campaign from Helping Service of Northeast Iowa
Download the Child-Abuse Awareness and Prevention online media toolkit from the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Use the free resources they provide to spread awareness on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks as well as your blogs or websites.
Have conversations with your friends and relatives about positive parenting. Discuss healthy ways of disciplining children and the importance of nurturing a child’s emotional development.
Ask a child psychologist or a mental health professional to come to your child’s school to discuss positive parenting and also what emotional child abuse is and the long-term effects on children, deep into adulthood.
Offer free parenting classes in your community or place of work. Have open, frank conversations about emotional child abuse and how to parent positively.
Use your blog and social networks to discuss the importance of treating children with respect and dignity. If you hear something in the mainstream news or see something in a movie that shows negative parenting, bring it out into the open in discussions both online and offline. Do the same if you see positive parenting.
Be a good example. Kindness begins at home. Treat your children and loved ones with respect and dignity, honoring the person that God created.
Be an honest, kind adult that the child can trust. Research shows that the presence of a trusted adult in an emotionally abused child’s life can make a tremendous impact on the child’s well-being as well as whether the child grows up to become an abuser.
If you have children in your life—whether on the team you coach, the kids in your Sunday School classes, nephews, nieces, the kid next door, your kids’ friends, etc.—be sure to always treat them with respect, dignity, and warmth. Show them that you honor them as people.
To an emotionally abused child, the little things mean a lot.
As a trusted adul,t you can…
- Really listen to when children speak to you. Many adults tend to cut kids off when they speak, zone out, or make fun (tease) them about something they’ve said. Instead of doing that, just listen to what they are saying to you.
- Show interest in their interests. An emotionally abused child is not a child accustomed to having anyone care about what they care about. If a child shows you their collection of trading cards or talks to you about their latest ballet class, listen and ask questions. Showing interest lets them know that, because you care about them, you care about what matters to them.
- Help the child find creative, positive outlets for his/her emotions. Encourage the child to draw, write, play sports, etc., something that can serve as a positive outlet for how they are feeling.