Domestic Violence Impact on Children

Children who live with violence in their homes are affected, even if they do not see it (e.g., they are in bed or in another room) or appear to be just fine. Each child may react differently to the violence at home.

You can help your child by talking to them about what is happening and listening to them.

Common Childrens' Reactions

  • Emotional: Children often feel guilty for not being able to stop the violence. They may be confused by their feelings for each parent. They may be scared, anxious, nervous, embarrassed, angry, depressed or even feel suicidal about what is happening.
  • Physical: Children may experience stomach aches, headaches, or other symptoms as a result of emotional stress.
  • Behavioral: Some children may act out aggressively, imitate what they see and hear, have trouble sleeping, or wet the bed. Others may become withdrawn or try to take care of the family. Many children get into fights at school, have trouble concentrating, get poor grades, abuse drugs and alcohol, or run away.
While they are at higher risk, not all children who witness domestic violence develop long-term problems, or grow up to be abusive or abused. Counseling and support services can help children and are available through community agencies (see the Resources section at the end of this Guide).

You can help your child by talking to them about what is happening and listening to them. Avoiding the discussion or pretending that the violence didn't happen could make your child feel even more scared and confused. It is important to let them know that the violence is not okay and not their fault. Let them know you love them and that you know this is scary for them. Assure them that you are ready to talk more about it if they want to. Be sure to include them in your safety planning.