“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” …This is one of those old adages we all know and often hear repeated to children who are being bullied or verbally abused. Sadly it couldn’t be much further from the truth, especially when it comes to kids. Words do hurt and can lead to real psychological damage which can take a lifetime to recover from.
Emotional abuse is very real and very harmful to children. With reports of bullying on the rise and no real laws in place to prevent children from being emotionally abused, do you know how to spot the signs in kids ?
Do you even believe that emotional abuse is real abuse ?
If you answered NO to either of those questions, then you need to read this post.
Most parents want the best for their children, however some parents will end up emotionally damaging their own children. This can be because of poor parenting skills, stress, inappropriate expectations or simply because it was done to them.
Of course, none of those reasons make it ok.
Education is once again the answer to the problem. When you acknowledge there is a problem, there is hope for change.
Emotional abuse that exists independently of other forms of abuse is the most difficult form of child abuse to identify and stop. Often called the worst form of abuse by experts due to its insidiously deniable nature, if we can educate ourselves and others about the damage that can be done to our children, then we can, as a society, make a huge difference to the future of those children who are suffering from the effects of being emotionally abused.
Please note, the indicators below, to watch out for are signs of POSSIBLE emotional abuse. Seeing one or more of these signs in a child does not mean they have been emotionally abused, but it is a definite indicator that something is causing the child distress and should be followed up on
Whether it be emotional abuse happening in the home, from a parent, a sibling or bullying at school or online, your GP is always a good place to start if you are unsure of how to handle things, or if you are concerned for your child’s health.
This post is a GUIDELINE for those who don’t understand emotional abuse and it’s ramifications. It is not meant in place of medical advice and if you are at all concerned that your child is involved in extreme risk taking behaviours or that they may be self-harming, taking drugs, or even suicidal, please seek medical help asap.
So many kids are emotionally abused and say nothing, often because they think it is normal to be treated that way. It isn’t and until we acknowledge the problem we can’t fix it. Our kids deserve to be treated with love and respect. If you know someone who is being emotionally abused, verbally abused or neglected please say something. So many parents psychologically damage their kids because it’s all they know, it was done to them and they don’t see what they’re doing as wrong.
So many times we have heard the words “They just need to toughen up” or “Sticks and stones people, sticks and stones”, No sorry, this is wrong, words can and do damage our kids, often setting them up for a life of accepting abuse. Why? Because those that were meant to empower them, told them that they deserve no better !
That’s the harsh reality of psychological abuse.
Indicator signs of Psychological/Emotional abuse in children
- Depression / Anxiety
- Low self esteem- Constant feelings of worthlessness or no value in themselves or anything around them
- Unable to value others
- Lack of people skills or social function
- Extreme attention seeking behaviour
- Lack of trust in people
- Obsessively eager to please adults or authority figures
- Extreme risk taking behaviours like activities that may cause self-harm, drug taking, even suicide attempts or threats
- Highly self-critical
- Persistent running away from home
Indicator signs in parent or care giver
- Constant criticism or teasing of child or withholding of praise or attention
- Excessive or unreasonable demands
- Persistent hostility or verbal abuse and even scapegoating of the child
- Belief the child is bad or evil
- Domestic violence
Any of these can be indicators of psychological damage or emotional abuse of a child, a combination of all, or most of these signs observed, should be brought to the attention of the parents, or if they are believed to be the problem, someone with compulsory reporting eg. Dr or teacher, as soon as humanly possible. Emotional abuse is no joke and must be stopped and acted upon as quickly as you would for physical or sexual abuse.