How to Recognize and Fight Against Emotional Child Abuse

Child abuse is a significant problem in our world today.

Child abuse includes injury, whether emotional or physical, visible or not instantly visible. More common types of child abuse include physical neglect, physical assault, emotional abuse as well as sexual abuse.

Child abuse happens when parents or the person in charge, harm or neglect a child. Physical abuse has long-term negative consequences on its victims as well as society and it leaves more than broken bones and bruises behind. Emotional abuse is the most frequent form of child abuse and defines the child’s behavior, mental and social aspects.

Some parents may psychologically and emotionally damage their own children as a result of bad parenting skills, stress, social isolation, deficiency of available resources, inappropriate or high expectations. Parents may psychologically abuse their children, mainly because they were themselves were victims of maltreatment as children. Emotional abuse can happen in all types of families, irrespective of their background.

Ignoring the needs of children, leaving them without supervision, or making them feel stupid, unwanted or worthless can lead to serious emotional harm and is considered to be child abuse.

Here are a few examples of emotional abuse:

  • Humiliation such as name-calling, making negative comparisons to others, constantly criticizing;
  • Isolation including not allowing a child to have friends and making a child believe that he or she is alone in the world;
  • Showing little or no physical affection, such as hugs, never saying anything kind including praise or saying "I love you", expressing positive feelings or congratulating children on successes;
  • Enabling children to be present during violent behavior of other people;
  • Using sarcasm or subjecting children to distasteful jokes;
  • Trying to control their lives, not recognizing their own individuality;
  • Ignorance such as stifling intellectual development and emotional growth, depriving children of essential stimulation and responsiveness;
  • Failing to promote their social development;
  • Terrorizing through verbal assault, bullying and frightening children, creating a climate of fear, and making them believe that the world is a hostile place;
  • Being absent;
  • Manipulation

Risk factors for neglect and child abuse:

Lack of Support and Presence of Stress

Being a parent can be an extremely difficult job, particularly if you are bringing up children without the help of friends, family or the community, or you have financial difficulties or relationship problems. It is important to get the support you need so that you are physically and emotionally able to support your child.

Mental Illness

Parents who are suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, an anxiety disorder, or another mental disorder have problems with self-care, much less caring for their children. A traumatized or mentally ill parent may be withdrawn and distant from their own children, and has frustrations without understanding why.

Domestic Violence

Violent relationships can lead to abuse, escaping from this relationship is one of the ways of protecting the children.

Drugs and Alcohol

Living with an addict or an alcoholic, is not an ideal environment to raise children in, and can quickly lead to neglect and abuse. Parents who are  under the influence of drugs and alcohol cannot care for their children as needed.

Lack of Parenting Abilities

For example, teen parents might have unreal expectations about how much care small children and babies need. Parents who were themselves victims of child abuse may only know how to raise their children the way they were raised. In such cases, therapy, parenting classes, and caregiver support organizations are excellent at giving helpful information on learning better parenting skills.

Emotionally abused children exhibit a range of specific signs:

  •   Feel unhappy, distressed and frightened
  •   Show signs of serious depression, anxiety or withdrawal
  •   Behave anti-socially and aggressively
  •   Seem isolated from their parents
  •   Show signs of malnourishment and physical neglect
  •   Have delays in physical, emotional or mental development
  •   Show absence of social abilities
  •   Have extreme outbursts or struggle to control strong emotions
  •   They often mimic the abuser

Here are some tips how to improve your reactions:

All children need love, acceptance, discipline, encouragement, stability, consistency and positive attention.

Never be Afraid to Apologize

Children need to know that adults can admit when they are wrong. If you say something in anger and lose your temper, you have to apologize.

Don’t Call your Children Names

Children deserve respect. Phrases like, “You will never amount to anything,” “You never do anything right,” and “If you could only be more like your brother," or names such as “lazy” or “stupid,"  may attack your child’s self-esteem.

Walk Away from the Situation

Calm yourself down, isolate yourself in another room for a few minutes after making sure the child is safe, and take a few deep breaths before reacting or ask for help from another adult.

Use appropriate discipline techniques because rather than to humiliate or punish him or her, discipline should be provided to correct your child’s behavior. Compliment your child for good behavior, or when he or she accomplishes even the smallest task.

Seek Professional Help

No matter how hard you try, if you can't seem to stop yourself, it is the right moment to get help. Help can come in the form of parenting classes, therapy or other interventions. For families at risk of emotional abuse, support is available through community centers, local child protection agencies, churches, mental health facilities, physicians and schools.

Take Care of Yourself and Develop New Parenting Skills

If you are feeling overwhelmed or you are not getting enough support and rest, you risk succumbing to anger. Start by learning appropriate discipline techniques and how to set clear boundaries for your children. Parenting classes, books, seminars and other parents are the way to get useful information.

Learn to Control Your Emotions

The first step is realizing that the emotions are there. If you were mistreated as a child, you may have a very difficult time getting in touch with your emotions. The mistreatment may cause problems in controlling your emotions; they spill out without control because you may have had to repress or deny them as a child.



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