As an adult, it can be difficult talking to young children about issues such as abuse and domestic violence on their level.
If a child is experiencing problems at home, however, it’s important that trusted adults in their lives help them to understand and cope with their family situation. Abuse in the home, whether of a student, a sibling or a parent, can be traumatic for children and even impede healthy development.
As an educator, it’s your responsibility to look out for early indicators of trouble at home and help at-risk students to access the resources that they need.
Signs to Look For
Whether a child is exposed to violence or abused themselves, it’s important to intervene as early as possible to avoid any lasting physical or emotional trauma. While abuse isn’t always visible on the surface, there are some key telltale signs that educators can look for in students who are suffering from problems at home:
- Recurring bruises, particularly around the neck, wrists, or eyes
- Sprained wrists and other minor injuries
- Attempts to hide bruises and marks with clothing or makeup
- Making excuses for injuries, such as tripping or falling
- Social isolation or a lack of close friends
- Using drugs or alcohol at an early age
- Having low self-esteem or confidence
- Excessive apologizing
If allowed to continue, prolonged abuse or exposure to violence can affect a child’s health beyond just bruising or scars. Domestic violence can leave deep psychological marks and puts children at an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems. It can also affect their sleep patterns and school performance.
How to Help
No matter what their age, it’s important to communicate to kids about the problems that they experience at home. The classroom offers a safe, secure environment in which kids can talk with an adult that they know they can trust.
It’s important that you remain supportive and non-judgmental, and discuss the topic at hand in a way that’s age appropriate. When you feel the time is right to take the lead and sit down with your student, there are a couple of important topics to cover:
- Violence is never the answer to your problems.
- Abuse in the home is no one’s fault but the abuser.
- It’s not a child’s responsibility to fix their family.
- It’s okay to feel angry, sad, or confused.
- You, as a teacher, are there to lend an ear and offer any help that you can.
While you may not be able to solve all of your student’s problems at home, you can offer them advice and connect them with local resources such as shelters and counseling services. As a teacher, you have the power to change your students’ lives for the better and help them to get through difficult times with patience and support.
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