How Does Family Conflict Affect Children?
Children learn the wrong information by witnessing violence. By being a witness to violence within the home, a child may experience long-term effects that carry into their adult life and relationships.
Both boys and girls who see violence at home quickly learn that violence is a way to solve problems. As they get older, these children are less understanding of their mothers, and some may begin to abuse them as they have seen their fathers do. Boys who witness their father’s violence have a 10 times greater rate of wife assault than sons not exposed to family violence.
Girls may believe that abuse is normal and are more likely to become involved in abusive relationships. Battered women who witnessed their mother being a victim of violence are less likely to seek help and refuge from their own partner’s violence.
Although adults may think “the kids don’t know,” research shows that children see or hear 40 to 80% of domestic violence assaults. (The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children: Where does it Hurt?, Royal Canadian Mounted Police.)
Long-term exposure to these traumatic events can affect children’s brain development and ability to learn, and can lead to a wide range of behavioural and emotional issues such as anxiety, aggression, bullying, phobias, and insomnia (Child Abuse/Children Exposed to Violence Information Sheet, Alberta Children and Youth Services, October 2008). Children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes.
Children Who Witness Abuse Program (CWWA)
This program offers services for children and youth from 3 to 18 years of age who have witnessed and/or experienced serious family conflicts but are not currently living in the abusive situation. The program offers individual and/or age-appropriate group counselling.
This is available through one of our Children Who Witness Abuse Counsellors. It is short-term counselling for those children not yet ready for a group situation. It provides children with an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings to an adult they can trust and an understanding that they are not to blame for the abuse. Individual counselling is also available upon group completion if necessary.
Children’s Counselling Groups
These groups are generally 8-10 weeks long. Two counsellors facilitate these sessions and cover age-appropriate topics such as anger, feelings, self-esteem, abuse, and safety. Children typically need to first attend individual counselling to prepare them for the group. Parents/guardians can self-refer their children. Pre-group assessment is required.
Parenting After Domestic Abuse Group (PADA)
This is an 8-week group focused on understanding woman abuse and its effects on children. Topics include: Change; Power and Control Wheel; Impact of Violence; Roles; Problem Solving; Self-Care; Celebrating; and more. The emphasis is to offer support and practical ideas for parents. There will also be a variety of guest speakers. Pre-registration is required.
Currently we partner with School District 42 and Connex to deliver individual clinical counselling to youth in the Connex program who are at risk of violence/abusive relationships. As well, as a part of VIP (Violence Is Preventable), we provide educational classroom presentations to various ages of children and youth in the schools to help increase awareness and knowledge about relationships and abuse.