Supporting a parent who may be dealing with domestic violence
October 1, 2021
If you know a parent who might be experiencing violence in their relationship, you may be wondering how you can help. A common tactic of domestic violence is isolation, which can make it harder for a survivor’s support system to step in and provide assistance.
Learning to identify abusive behavior in a relationship is an important step in helping someone who may be dealing with domestic violence. Safely providing a parent with information about available free and confidential resources and support is always a good idea. Encourage parents you know to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. They can connect anyone to a local free and confidential service provider right here in Colorado. Support is available 24/7 in more than 200 languages. Survivors of domestic violence who cannot make a phone call, can:
- Text loveis (capitalization does not matter) to 22522
- Visit thehotline.org to chat with an advocate
If you need advice on how to help a loved one, call the hotline for yourself.
or Stand Up Colorado at 855.9StandUp (855-978-2638
It is important to know that being a survivor of domestic violence can look different for everyone and anyone can experience domestic violence. While there are many internal and external reasons why survivors find it hard to leave their partner who chooses to use abusive behavior, parents might have an additional hesitancy to even consider leaving an abusive relationship. Concerns such as financial stability, custody, housing, religious concerns, or even a fear of tearing a family apart can come into play.
Here are tips to help a parent who may be in an abusive relationship:
Kindly let them know that you notice that they are in a difficult and scary situation.
Let the parent know that you are aware that they may need additional support and that the way they are being treated is wrong. Be sure to inform them that the abusive behavior of their partner is not their fault. Reassure them that you are not there to criticize their decisions but to support them as much as possible. It can be comforting to know that they have a judgment-free person to lean on.
Help to prevent isolation by demonstrating support.
Let the parent experiencing abuse know that they are not alone through action. Offer to bring a pizza, drop off dinner or plan regular time to spend together like a weekly walk to the park with their kids.
While with the kids and parents, don’t inquire or investigate about what may be happening at home. Families are supported knowing that they have a trusting, caring person in their lives. You help to build resiliency within the family by being positive and present.
Offer specific support.
General offers for help can sometimes make it harder for a parent to know what and when they can call on you. Instead of saying, “let me know if you need anything,” try the following:
- I drive to and from work from 7-7:45 a.m. and 5-5:45 p.m. and am always available to talk during those times
- I am available to take a walk or take your kids to the park every Tuesday and Thursday between 6 and 8 p.m.. I’ll send you a text next Tuesday around lunchtime to see if that works for you.
- Do you all like pizza? There are pizza specials on Thursdays and I would love to drop off dinner for your family tomorrow.
- The library has pajama reading nights on Wednesday, may I take the kids? Would you like to join, too?
- I picked up a few extra pumpkins, can you and/or the kids come by on Saturday to carve and decorate them?
I would be happy to lend you a phone or you can spend time at my place to use the computer safely to lookup resources or seek support services.
Supportive comments can go a long way.
Find opportunities to uplift the parent. Offering compliments and general words of encouragement can be encouraging and boost their confidence.
Encourage the parent to create a safety plan.
Offer to help connect the parent with local, free, and confidential services to help create a safety plan.
It is important that parents have access to the resources that they need to create and maintain an environment where their children can grow and thrive. Some families need additional support and that is okay.
The best way for you to support a parent who may be experiencing domestic violence is to listen without judgment, support them in making their own decisions, and help them to find ways to become stronger and safer.
If you have concerns about the safety or well-being of a child or family in Colorado, call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 844-CO-4Kids. Find local resources and learn more about starting a conversation here.