What do you think of when you hear these words?
1) No marks but scars
2) Invisible cries
3) Longing to be loved and wanted
4) “Let me just be a kid”
5) False expectations
6) Worse than physical abuse
The above words were told to me by two adults who are both survivors of child abuse/emotional abuse and also by kids who come in to my office as cutters (children who cut themselves because they no longer feel they are being acknowledged or heard, or they have lost the power of their voices and are unable to find the words to express themselves).
Yes, emotional abuse is a type of child abuse that is subtler than the other types of abuse and less detectable, yet it can be more dangerous than physical abuse. It can scar and damage a child’s sense of who he or she is and cause him or her to lose his or her sense of self. Parents who have negative attitudes may say hurtful things to their children, or, for that matter, they may fail to give their full attention to their children. That does not make them bad parents, nor is it emotional abuse. However, when a persistent pattern of negative attitudes towards their child becomes chronic for the parents, then that can result in emotional abuse.
It can happen to any child, no matter what the economic, culture or racial lines may be. Emotional abuse is deceiving since it does not leave a physical scar. Many times children are not able to express themselves for the hurt they experience leaves them with low self-esteem and no words to say how much they have been hurt.
What are some causes of emotional abuse?
1) Having a parent who was abused as a child
2) Parents who are under undo stress whether it is financial, health, relationship or work-related
3) Unwanted pregnancies
4) Parents who have a drug and/or alcohol addiction
5) Mental illness or learning disabilities of parents or the child
What are some of the effects and signs of emotional abuse?
1) Due to the verbal assault, the child is left wounded mentally with the feelings of being belittled and ashamed. The child tires of people making fun of him or her, which leaves him or her feeling humiliated.
2) If they experience this as a newborn during their first year of life, they may fail to thrive and even die if they do not receive the basic emotional nurturing they need.
3) An older child can experience problems with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, insecurities, withdrawal, anger, and problems with relationships as well as self-destructive behavior (drugs/suicide).
4) Children may also experience an inability to trust, fears and phobias, sleep disorders, speech disorders, excessive crying, and avoidance of eye contact.
5) They may detach from parents, friends, and siblings.
6) Emotionally abused children learn to stuff their feelings inside and can have trouble regulating their behaviors. Sometimes they can end up causing harm to themselves as they try to express themselves or experience unexplained anger.
7) The worst tragedy is if these kids one day become parents; they may end up continuing the cycle of emotional abuse and do it to their own children.
All children deserve a chance to have consistency and a stable home and school environment. They need to know that they are loved and accepted for their unique and individual personalities.
How can we make a difference?
1) There is no need to label or compare a child to someone else, especially to another sibling. A child should not be called names; instead he or she should be respected.
2) Give your child a chance to experience pride. Compliment him or her, even if it is for a small task.
3) If a child needs to be disciplined, allow the child the right to know beforehand what the rules are and a chance to explain him or herself.
4) Do not humiliate your child or break his or her free spirit. Allow space and time for the proper expression of his or her feelings and also of your own.
5) If you feel you are angry or that you are going to lose control, walk away from the situation and allow yourself time to cool off.
6) If needed, get help from your local church, doctor, mental health office, or family or school counselor.
7) If you lose your temper, it is okay to say you are sorry. Do not be afraid to apologize to a child. Let him or her know that you love him or her, for this will help your child immensely.
Remember: emotional abuse is hard to identify because it does not leave any physical signs. You will most likely hear it instead of seeing it in your child, if your child is at all able to speak up about it. Do your best to help support the child and be vigilant if you suspect any signs of abuse. Reporting abuse can be anonymous. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong with a child, it is better to be safe than sorry.
One must keep in mind the effects of child abuse. No matter what form it is, it may last a lifetime. It is up to all of us to be on the lookout and to let your voice be heard on behalf of the children who have lost their voices.
For the sake of our young children, and so that they may have a peaceful and rewarding life, please spread the word about how emotional abuse is in fact child abuse.
- Posted By: DRC Editor
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