Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors

The impact of domestic abuse on children and their relationship with the non-abusive parent.

In this article, I draw upon my work with children and parents who have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse to highlight some effects it has on them and their relationships. Here, my focus will be on the child’s relationship with the non-abusing parent. I will suggest ways the non-abusive parent can support their children when living with domestic abuse,  emphasising, amongst other things, the importance of the non-abusive parent being offered support to manage the emotional impact, on them, of living within such an environment. I illustrate how helpful this is in managing their feelings,  highlighting how this can lead to them responding to their childrens' feelings in healthier, more compassionate, attuned and empathic ways. The article ends with details of agencies that can be contacted for additional advice and support.

This article will be useful for parents in this  situation and to therapists and other professionals who are interested in finding out more about the issues raised here.

The effects of domestic abuse on children and the non-abusive parent.

I begin by illustrating some effects on children and the non-abusive parent. I will use quotes from an imagined family comprising of two children and two parents, one of whom is abusive. I am imagining the abuse is mostly verbal and emotional, with some episodes of  physical violence and is targeted at the non-abusive parent. The quotes provide some reflections on how this family feels and thinks about the abuse, how members relate to themselves and their other family members once they have left the abusive environment and move into a refuge.

We begin with Ellie who is 6 years old:

“Mummy says Daddy did bad things to her and that’s why we don’t live with him no more.  I remember Daddy shouting and his face would go SOO RED.  Mummy would cry. I would cry too… but sometimes he would be happy and buy me sweets, and let me stay up late when I wanted. Even when mummy said I had to go to bed. I don’t like the Daddy that makes me and my mummy cry but I do like my Happy Daddy.”

Now we continue with Jacob, who is 14 years old:

“Life is different since we moved into the refuge. I miss Toby my dog, my  old room, my old mates. I even miss my old school.  And I miss him too, my Dad. We would go football together. He’d take me training twice a week, watch me play even though I was never that good,  and then, afterwards, we would like, go home and watch footie on the big TV. Mum never joined us. Dad said she didn’t want to. He said it was special time, father son time. And it was ace. It really was.
I miss those Saturdays, but I don’t miss seeing the way he was with Mum. Me and my sister would watch from the top of the stairs hearing things…like shouting and banging. I couldn’t move… even though I wanted to… Like go downstairs and tell Dad to stop. But I didn’t…  I just sat there like the scared little woose I am, hating myself for not doing anything to protect my Mum, hating my Dad for what he was doing to her, and hating my Mum for being so weak… for not sticking up for herself.
Now things are different. My Dad calls me once a week and tells me he misses me, and that I’m still his special lad, that he’ll see me soon and work things out with Mum… that things will go back to the way they were. But since coming here to the refuge, I’ve been thinking more about how things were… and, even though I miss my Dad and love him, I don’t want things to be the way they were. It wasn’t right.”

And now, we conclude with Marissa, the non-abusing parent, who is 39 years old:

“I feel sick thinking about it, even now months on after we left and came to the refuge. Everything in my body tightens as if I‘m back in that scared state preparing myself for whatever was coming next... for whatever he said or did next.
I always knew when it was coming. I’d developed a sixth sense: he’d start off with the put-downs. Critiquing me for something I’d done, like using too much fabric conditioner in the wash which had left his clothes smelling “funny” and then he’d start noticing other things in the house and inevitably make comments about the house being a mess… that I was a mess.
And then he’d start with the kids, making comparisons between them and his nieces and nephews or friends’ children. My children would always come off worse. Never bright enough, tall enough, confident enough, funny enough... It went on and on and on with it invariably ending with him blaming me. I let them play on their tablets for too long...  I wasn’t strict enough. I didn’t push them hard enough. I’d listen, taking it in whilst feeling the colour fade from my cheeks, my stomach beginning to churn. My mind shutting down.
Here but not here.
He’d notice then and shake me out of my reverie calling me a stupid cow or using words much more colourful and brutal than this to insult me with. Then he would  go into his study, saying he had to work and didn’t want to hear a sound.
He must have known this was impossible, given we had two kids, a dog... And so the inevitable would happen: someone would make a noise, and he would open the study door and start shouting. The barrage of insults would start again: I couldn’t control the kids, the house, nothing. I’d nod, feeling the inevitable mix of shame, dread and concern for myself and the kids - who I knew had heard. What must they be thinking? I just wanted to get to them. To check they were OK. So I’d take the barrage of insults about myself, my parenting, my inability to keep a home in the hope that it would shorten his tirade.
And then after a while, he would stop and ask - with what I now regard as a disturbingly calm voice -  if I thought he was being unreasonable. I wasn’t sure what was reasonable or unreasonable anymore but given how desperate I was to check on my kids, I’d nod, agree to everything he was saying, promise to be ‘better’ and after obtaining his ‘consent’ to leave, I would go upstairs to check on them.
And this is the saddest bit of all, the bit that cuts me up and kills me. Still. And that is the look on my children's faces as their eyes would meet with mine: my daughter staring at me with large, frightened eyes asking if Daddy was angry, if he was angry because of something she had done. And my beautiful, beautiful son, who would come out of his room, and tell her to stop being a woose… telling her Dad was all right. Dad wasn’t angry with her and that she should stop worrying.
He sounded so grown up, scared, and angry. And then he would turn around making his way back to his room, putting on his headphones, closing his door refusing to look or speak to me as I stood there trying to find out if he was OK and reassure him that everything was indeed OK.
But it wasn’t. Nothing was. Certainly not for my beautiful children or me. It wasn’t until we moved away, that I realised more of what my children went through. What they had been carrying and holding to themselves.
I’ll never forgive myself for this, for not protecting them better, and for not looking after them. And I’ll never forgive him for what he put us all through.”

These quotes are powerful and highlight how children and adults living in this situation, can feel a plethora of emotions including high levels of stress, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, confusion, shame and rage-affecting their sense of self and relationships with the world, and others.

Before we continue exploring, let’s begin with a definition of domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse - what is it?

According to Women’s Aid, domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by, in the majority of cases, a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence), psychological and/or emotional abuse, financial or economic abuse, harassment and stalking, and online or digital abuse. Some points to emphasise: domestic abuse is not confined to physical acts of violence; it can be sporadic, one-off, and be carried out by any family member, including a sibling or grand-parent, mother or father in law although it is more often the partner or ex-partner who is abusive.

On average, the police in England and Wales receive over 100 calls an hour relating to domestic abuse. It is estimated that 90% of children whose mothers are abused, witness the abuse, and that between 40% and 70% of these children are also direct victims of the abuse (HMIC, 2015). These figures show, how pervasive domestic abuse is. In the next section, I will highlight some ways in which it can affect children.

Impact of domestic abuse on children.

Studies have shown children and adults who have experienced exposure to domestic abuse (either witnessing or receiving emotional or physical abuse) are more likely to be affected by short or long-term cognitive, behavioural, relational and emotional issues. This will be exasperated by their developmental level, nature and length of exposure, physical closeness to the incident and emotional closeness to the victim and the abuser.

Cognitive effects.

To highlight, it is common for younger children (like Ella, in the quotes above), and older children who have been exposed to prolonged domestic abuse, to think in an egocentric pre-causal way. Egocentric thinking is characterised by a child perceiving everything that happens in terms of themselves. Pre-causal thinking leads a child to seek explanations for events based on their egocentric perspective, without understanding the true relationships between cause and effect. Hence, within a domestic abuse situation, if the child has misbehaved the day before, the child may feel this led to the escalation between parents - even if it was made clear it had nothing to do with the child’s behaviour. This kind of thinking can often lead to the child blaming themselves for the abuse.

So what impact can this have on a child? As in the case of  Jacob (in the quotes above) this can lead to the child developing negative self-beliefs, in which they regard themselves as ‘bad’, 'unworthy' and/or 'defective', thus resulting in them harbouring feelings like shame, guilt, hate or loathing of self.

To manage these feelings, some children take on the role of parent/protector  and/ or become a container for the family’s feelings. Here, the feelings of ‘others’ such as their siblings, or the abusive and/or non-abusive parent’s feelings are placed upon them and there is an expectation that the child has the responsibility to maintain emotional and even physical safety in the household. This can feel like an enormously heavy  weight for the child to bear especially as it occurs at a time when the child does not  have the necessary skills, life experiences, maturity, aptitude or resources to manage it alone. Consequently, many begin to lose their child self and with this their true spontaneous and playful self. A false self is created where their interest and curiosity for themselves, others and the world begins to fade. They become more self sufficient, and grow compliant, becoming who they feel people, like their parents and/or their siblings need them to be, as opposed to who they want to be.

Here the child may isolate themselves believing they don’t need or want friends, or they are too 'boring', or too 'grown up' for anyone to want to be their friend. Furthermore, children living with domestic abuse, may believe it is ‘safer’ not to have friends, as there  may be an expectation borne from their experiences of domestic abuse, that people, including other children, will behave towards them in the way the abusive person/parent has. They may fear they will be treated with abuse, cruelty or contempt or worry they will become a container for their emotional feelings, just as they have for their parent/s or others. This may feel too much, so to avoid the feelings of overwhelm, rage, anxiety, hurt, sadness, betrayal and fear which may arise here, the child may find themselves preferring to live in an environment which is restrictive and lonely.

This may be exapperated by the following: some children will be informed by their parents or indeed other members of the family, that if a disclosure is made by a friend or indeed by themselves, it could lead to them, the child, and their siblings being taken into CARE, sent away from their parents, who might never see them again. Sometimes parents may tell the child that a disclosure could lead to the abusive parent being sent to prison. Consequently, it may feel safer and less risky to live in such an isolated environment. However as highlighted above, it can also heighten the distress and aloneness the child is feeling. Thus, the above, begins to paint a picture of how difficult, complex and challenging this environment is for the child.

This becomes even more evident when we consider  the above in the context of the child being silenced into not talking about or telling others about the abuse. Here a part of the child  may want to inform someone about their home situation because they can no longer tolerate the feelings that come from living in such an environment. At the same time, this is met with intense anxiety, and even terror, around the consequences of doing so, leading to an internal conflict, overwhelm and confusion as to what to do for the best: speak or keep quiet?

The weight of feelings becomes heavy and harder to bear and their nature, becomes more complex. They may feel guilt arising from conflicting loyalties to themselves, their family, and their abuser (more said on this topic later) They may also feel a rage toward their parents for creating this situation; powerlessness associated with their perceived lack of agency to change the situation; and hopelessness arising from a sense they have that nothing will change for the better, even if they do speak out. As you can imagine, this is a difficult and extremely challenging situation for many children.  It can feel like there is no one to help bear and manage their feelings.

You may be thinking about the non-abusive parent and wondering if the child can go to them. There are many reasons why the child may be reluctant to do so. In these unhealthy and unsafe situations, the non-abusing parent may focus on placating her/his partner to avoid further outbursts of violence, or scary stressful moments, in the hope this will create a semblance of safety for the children. Here, the non-abusing parent prioritises the partner’s needs, meaning less time and energy is given to meeting the needs of her/his children. In this scenario, the violated parent may  appear to become emotionally distant and unavailable to their children. Children may feel ignored, or forgotten about by her/him. They may think: “Why should I tell them? She/he isn't interested. Furthermore, sometimes in these environments, and as a result of the high level of emotional internal discord, tension and stress, the violated parent is feeling, they may act out, or become abusive to the child. Hence, the child may feel it is dangerous to go to the non-abusive parent. Or it may be that if and when they have gone to the non-abusive parent, their feelings haven’t been met with the empathy, understanding, compassion and validation they needed, leaving them feeling even more wounded, hurt, disappointed, rejected and alone. In this context, and to protect themselves from this emotional fall out, the child may conclude it is safer not to go to the non-abusive parent as they can’t trust she/he will respond in the way they need.

The above highlights some of the emotional binds and conflicts that children living in these very difficult and stressful situations face. These are also shown in other  feelings they have about their parents. For example, children may harbour strong feelings towards the abusive parent. They may 'hate' and/or despise the abusive parents’ cruelty, and feel rage toward him/her for creating an environment of fear, stress, and unpredictability. This may lead to fantasies of killing or hurting the parent, which may accentuate feelings of guilt, confusion and fear the child may have about themselves (they might think they are  ‘bad’ or ‘evil' for thinking these thoughts). At the same time, and as Jacob and Ellie highlight (in the quotes above) the feelings they have towards the abusive parent, will be intermingled with feelings of warmth and love arising from good experiences with the abusive parent. Thus feelings for self and the abusive parent become more complex, contradictory, and confused.

And if this wasn’t enough, these can be heightened by  additional feelings they have for the non-abusive parent: children may feel let down by the non-abusing parent for not providing an emotional space where they are helped to make sense of and manage their feelings. They may 'hate'  them for having made the child their emotional container and feel contemptuous of them for not being strong or brave enough to protect themselves and/or their children from the abuse. At the same time, they may feel guilt for having these feelings which maybe intermingled with a fierce love and sense of loyalty and protection for the non-abusive parent.

And so, when the child feels high levels of tension and stress in their own bodies and minds but cannot tell anyone, they have to find a way to manage these feelings by themselves. They may  deny  or minimise the abuse, normalising it in some way. Or to manage the conflicting, confusing and complicated feelings they have for their parents, they may, for example, resort to ‘black and white’ thinking in which one parent becomes the ‘good’ parent - 'the angel’, and the other becomes the ‘bad’ parent 'the devil’. This provides a simpler way for the child to think about their parents, reducing the ambivalence in their minds around them and the anxiety and confusion they feel here.

Another strategy used by children to manage this 'messiness' is to take on the role of being an abuser. Here there is an identification with the abuser. In this scenario, they may be unkind to their siblings and/or to the non- abusive parent by for example, insulting or physically hurting, or challenging the authority and boundaries the non-abusing parent is trying to set and maintain. Such behaviour may not be confined to the house but spill into other environments such as school. Here children can get involved in bullying, and other anti-social behaviour. Whatever the environment, this way of 'being' is used by children as a way of warding off feelings of powerlessness and fear. Here, children feel it is better to be powerful as opposed to powerless, omnipotent rather than impotent, fearless rather than fearful. In other words, they may think it is 'better' to be and feel like the abuser rather than the abused.

Other strategies children use to manage the feelings they are experiencing might include losing themselves in fantasy or online worlds.  Others may develop perfectionist traits: they become the ‘best’ daughter or son they can in an attempt to avoid any behaviour they think might trigger an explosive and scary situation in the household. They may develop OCD which can often be used as a way to gain a sense of control at a time when they feel they have little or no control over their environment and their lives. School avoidance is another strategy, and can be rooted in a need to protect those left at home from the abuser given the child’s fear of what the abuser might do when they are not around. Finally, a strategy used by older children may include drug or alcohol abuse which is used to numb the emotional pain that comes from living in this kind of environment.

When children experience prolonged exposure to domestic abuse they can also develop skin defences. Examples might include scratching, burning or cutting at the skin. Here the skin is used to ward off overwhelming and unbearable feelings associated with  a fear of  emotionally falling apart. These defences create a sense of internal coherence, where the child believes they are being held together psychologically or emotionally. It can be difficult for people to understand how self-injury can be used to manage feelings. To find out more about this, please read my other articles -

Self-Injury In Young People

Cutting And Self-Injury. What Is It And Why Do People Do It?

What does become clear is these defences communicate how the child feels, and are used to manage uncontrollable emotional pain. For instance, turning it into a physical pain. These acts give the child a sense of autonomy and control over the only place they have control - their body; and during these acts, the body and mind can relax, through distraction, to a place of peace for a while.

These defences are limited in their usefulness: they only work in the short term as the situations that have given ‘birth’, to the feelings that led to these defences are still present. Furthermore, skin defences and the other strategies highlighted, like identifying with the abuser, can leave children and young people feeling even more ashamed, conflicted or fearful of themselves and their aggression and anger, affecting their sense of self.

What can be done to support children?

So let’s imagine you are a parent living in an abusive situation. What can you do to help support your children? We know that children who are able to put their distress into words, are less likely to act out their distress in behaviours which are, for example, violent or aggressive towards others or indeed themselves (self-injury) To do this, they need an ‘other’, to help them understand and make sense of their feelings.

They cannot do it on their own.

So, within the context of your relationship with your children, help them talk about scary moments that have taken place in the home which they may have seen, heard or been more directly involved in. Do not fall into the trap of not talking about them, as children may be left feeling confused wondering if it happened or if it was something they dreamt or imagined. This could lead them to believing or worrying they are going 'mad'. Additionally, not talking about abuse or scary moments, could lead to it being normalised. In this context, children may think there’s nothing wrong with abuse or with others being abused. This could affect their understanding and expectations of relationships, making them more susceptible to being abused or abusing others in later life.

The above has highlighted two reasons for having these kinds of conversations, but another reason is that such conversations can be used to wrestle with fears children may have that the non-abusive parent can’t ‘deal’, with such a conversation, or bear their 'big scary feelings'. What’s more, and as highlighted earlier, children, may fear if they begin talking about their feelings, they will not be met with empathy or understanding from you. So, if you can, be prepared to talk about it, validating their feelings making clear that you understand why they are feeling upset and scared, and reiterating that it is ok for them to talk with you about anything they have heard or seen.

When having these conversations, make clear that abuse is wrong (to avoid it being normalised) and that the abuser’s actions are  wrong/bad, rather than implying she/he is a 'bad' person. One reason for this is it makes clear to the child that it is actions that are abusive, not the person themselves. Communicating this distinction to a child  can reduce the guilt they may have around holding loving feelings for the parent whose actions are abusive.

Additionally if  both parents have acted in ways that were unacceptable, then own what belongs to you. Your honesty here, will help children feel safe with you, and models the importance of owning and taking responsibility in relationships. This is important as children will be looking to the non- abusing parent to model values concerning how people should relate to one another. It will also help children think more about the abusing parent’s inability or reluctance to take responsibility for his/her actions. Make clear that you can understand if they feel angry or resentful, or 'hate' you or the abusive parent. Give them space to talk with you about these feelings, trying  not to become defensive, but insisting they do so in a respectful way (more said about why this is important later on)

If, on the other hand, your children are feeling guilty for ‘colluding’ with the abuse and/or being abusive to you themselves, try to empathise with your children, telling them you understand this might be a response to managing those 'big, messy scary feelings' they have about feeling powerless and vulnerable; but make it clear they are being manipulated or intimidated into participating in the abuse. Try re-assuring them that you will never stop loving them and they are not  ‘bad/evil’ if they say ‘horrible’ things about you or when they sometimes do things that upset you. Here, many children may fear they are or will become an abuser. Make clear this does not have to be the case and they have the agency to change. So think with them about ways or things they can do to avoid being part of or colluding with the abuse, making clear that doing so will help them feel better about themselves.

These kinds of conversations are very important because, as noted above, they encourage the child to think about respect for themselves and for others, thus modelling the importance of respect in relationships, whilst promoting your own sense of authority in their eyes. This is important, as a hallmark of an abusive relationship is that abusers will try to dismantle the respect and authority your children may have for you. To build this up, make clear your expectations: they will speak politely, listen when you speak, not interrupt, swear or insult you with words or facial expressions or indeed undermine your authority with another child. If they do not choose to respect these expectations, then you may have to impose consequences. Although, this will be much harder to impose if and when the abuser is around as they may try to undermine your authority, be as firm and as fair as you possibly can when she/he is around and when she/he isn’t, continue to be firm and fair with these expectations. This is important as it gives your children a sense of your strength and authority which in turn will lead to them feeling more confident in your ability to protect them as best you can from the abuse.

Also think about discussing with children how they can keep themselves safe, when and if they feel scared in the house. This shows that you take their safety seriously, whilst also making it clear they have agency - important in challenging feelings of powerlessness they may have here.

It is important to note these conversations do not have to rely on words alone. Indeed with younger children it may be better to use play, puppets, drawings or storytelling. These kinds of activities are more age and developmentally appropriate, and offer an indirect way of speaking about 'scary' events. They create distance from the actual event, thus providing a safer space for the child to ‘feel into’, and think about their feelings. An example might be to use empathy drawings where you, the parent, do a quick sketchy drawing of how you imagine  a child may be feeling after a ‘scary’ event. Once finished, ask your child if it’s how they imagine the child to feel and offer them the opportunity to change the drawing to fit more with what they think  the child maybe feeling.  Talk about these feelings  and validate them. Then ask your child  for their thoughts on what the child might need. If they can't suggest anything,  think of some yourself and write/ draw them onto the empathy drawing. Discuss them with your child asking if they think there is other support the child might need.  If they can't think of anything then empathise saying something like - " It's really hard to think about what a child might need or want but we've come up with some good ideas to help this child with their big feelings for now. Maybe we will think of more later on". At this point, and  based on your child's response and how you are feeling, you could then ask if this is how  they feel when they hear or see things at home that frighten or confuse them.  You are now being much more direct. Sometimes children will open up and talk about their feelings here.  Again, listen and empathise as best you can. Alternatively, if your child 'clams  up', empathise saying you know it's difficult talking about it and that  you are here to listen when they are ready. The key to this kind of communication is recognising the importance of creating safety in these conversations, and  understanding that because of what they have been through,  it may take  time for your child to trust to open up and talk directly to you about their feelings. Be as patient and as considerate of this as you can, keeping the lines  of communication open as best you can.

For more information please refer to the book - Conversations That Matter: Talking With Children And Teenagers In Ways That Help. Sunderland, M, 2017

Support for the non-abusive parent.

Having these kinds of conversations, and developing  relationships with your children where  there is  respect and trust will help them communicate their feelings  in this way. This is also true when it comes to imposing consequences (see above). However,  it is not an easy thing to do when living in an abusive, or scary and volatile environment. Here your stress and anxiety levels will be high, with your energy being used to create and maintain safety, predictability and de-escalation of 'scary' situations. There can be little head space and sometimes, little emotional space and energy to empathise, or ‘feel into’, understand or make sense of your own feelings let alone the childrens’. As the last section has shown, when this happens, the child will be left with unprocessed feelings making them more likely to act out. For you, the non-abusive parent, it may leave you feeling an enormous sense of guilt, shame, sadness and disappointment in yourself with a dismantled belief and confidence in your parenting (see Marissa's quote above)

So, if you are living in this kind of environment, it is important you get the emotional support and help you need. Reaching out may not be easy to do: there may be shame around asking for this, for fear of being judged, especially if you have decided to stay with the abuser. Alternatively, you might be frightened of people minimising or normalising the abuse; or saying "it’s best to put up with it". People may react in this way because of their feelings of discomfort, or even horror around what they are hearing, or it might be influenced by their upbringing or experiences of coming from families where there has been abuse. This along with cultural or religious values may shape their and indeed your own understanding of domestic abuse and how to react to it.

Furthermore, you may feel it’s best to remain silent. This position could be strengthened by fears concerning how the abuser may react, or a worry that if you were to seek support, Social Services might get involved resulting in your children being taken away from you. It is not the brief of this article to talk about possible responses that authorities like Social Services would have to such cases, but it is right to say they do have a duty of care. What this means is, if they believe you or someone else, including a child (that is, anyone under the age of 18) is at serious risk of harm, they would have to intervene in some way. They would undertake an assessment of risk which would, amongst other things, take into account the situation they saw at home, and the impact it was having on the children. This may be alarming, so it’s important to hold in mind that Social Workers have a desire to keep families together and want to support families living in these conditions.

If all this feels too much, try perhaps talking to a friend or family member with whom you feel comfortable and trusting of. If you are a member of a religious community, ask someone from your church, temple, synagogue, or mosque to support you. If you can’t do any of these things, and would prefer to speak to a stranger, then consider speaking to a therapist. Like other professionals, therapists also have a duty of care and would be mindful of safety issues.

If you were to work with me I would talk you through my responsibilities relating to safeguarding and the limits this places on confidentiality. We would discuss this at the outset, so you would be clear about how these matters would be addressed if concerns about you or your childrens’ safety were highlighted in the sessions. Thus, transparency and openness would be evident.

Furthermore, I would hope to provide a space where you didn’t feel judged for your decisions (such as staying with your abuser), where you felt safe and contained; where  your struggles, dilemmas, thoughts and feelings about your  experiences and traumas were heard and understood, and your strengths, commitment and actions taken to providing or wanting to provide as safe a space as possible for your children are acknowledged and respected. What’s more you would be offered compassion and hope that things will get better and that you can make things better. This last point is important as one of the things that abuse can do is strip us of our optimism and our sense of agency. With this in mind, we would use therapy as a conduit to empower you to make the best decisions for yourself and your children.

Therapy can be hard, relentless, and uncomfortable as we connect with feelings, ambivalences, thoughts and look at the experiences, that have led to them. In these moments, I would try very hard to offer you the empathy, and emotional connection you need to feel met, understood, and not so alone. I would endeavour, therefore, to stand alongside you in your distress.

So to conclude, staying with these uncomfortable feelings, and indeed this process, will help you better recognise, understand and manage your emotional reactions, and behaviours towards yourself and your children, and give you a better understanding of their behaviour and feelings. With time, therapy, will help provide a conduit for more trusting and stronger relationships to develop between you and your children where you are able  to meet your feelings and there's with what is needed most: empathy, understanding, emotional holding, care and compassion.

Take great care readers - Anjula

National UK support for people affected by domestic abuse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse and you live in the UK then please contact the following agencies:

In case of an emergency, call the Police on 999

If not in an emergency, then contact:

Victim Support at  or call them on 08 08 16 89 111

The National Domestic Abuse helpline at  or call them on 0808 2000 247

Samaritans at or call them on 116 123

Family Rights Group (confidential advice to families whose children are involved with Social Services) at or call them on 0808 801 0366

Adfam (charity supporting families affected by drugs and alcohol) at or call them on 07442 137 421

Home-Start (a national network of groups, offering emotional and practical support by trained volunteers to families with at least one child under the age of five years) or call them on 0116 464 5490

Family Lives (charity supporting parents under stress and refers to sources of local support) at or call them on 0808 800 2222

Action for Children (support for vulnerable and neglected children and young people, and their families) at or call them on 0300 123 2112

Coram Children’s Legal Centre (freephone advice line for parents, carers, children and young people on a wide range of legal issues) at or call them on 0207 713 0089

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (the UK’s leading charity specialising in child protection) at or call them on 0808 800 5000

Childline (free confidential advice and support for those who are 18 years old or under) at or call them on 0800 1111

If you need to find a therapist, start with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), or British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Both represent the leading professional UK bodies in the field and hold directories of qualified counsellors and psychotherapists.

UKCP at or ring them at 0207 014 9955

BACP at  or ring them on 01455 883 300

Local (Milton Keynes) support for people affected by domestic abuse.

If you live in the Milton Keynes (UK) area, you can contact the following agencies:

MK ACT (provides support to those affected by domestic abuse) at or call them on 0344 375 4307 (Monday to Friday, 9-5pm)

MIND BLMK (provides counselling and support to those affected with mental health issues) at or call them on 0300 330 0648

West Bletchley Wellbeing Counselling Service (provides counselling including low cost counselling to those living in the West Bletchley area) at or call them on 01908 370 860

YIS - Young Peoples Mental Health (provides young people aged 11-21 with counselling) at or call them on 01908 604 700