Father’s Day can be very difficult for a family still experiencing the aftermath of family violence.
For a mother whose former abuser is the father of her children, she might feel guilty as she watches the families around her celebrate fathers and know that her children won’t be honoring their dad. She might feel that she is doing her children an injustice by separating them from their dad, even though being together meant that the abuse continued.
For a father who is separated from an abusive partner, he too might feel like he didn’t do the right thing by breaking up a family, as he watches other families celebrate together. He may feel pangs of guilt that he isn’t a “good dad” because he pulled his children away from their mother.
In times like these, parents need to remember that leaving an abusive relationship is ultimately healthier for a child than staying with an abusive partner.
Even if an ex partner was not abusive to the children, they were more than likely still affected by the abuse. Children are far more perceptive than they are given credit for, so if something was happening in their home they more than likely knew. Growing up under the same roof as domestic violence can have a profound impact on children, both physically and emotionally.
Witnessing domestic violence can affect children’s future relationships. It can mean that they are more likely to be abusive or abused. Children who grow up in a home where abuse occurs often have trouble connecting with, trusting and engaging with an intimate partner. This can lead to a lifetime of solitude or unhappiness.
Children who witness domestic abuse sometimes internalize the situation and begin to blame themselves for what is happening. They feel that they are the cause of the violence. These children often suffer from intense depression, suicidal tendencies, high anxiety levels and sometimes even develop post traumatic stress disorder.
Some children do the opposite, though, and externalize their home life (Safe Start Center). They can become highly aggressive or unruly, lashing out and misbehaving in other aspects of their life.
Witnessing domestic violence in the home can affect children physiologically, too. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that children who live in violent households are at a higher risk of developing stomach problems or chronic headaches. They often have trouble focusing and learning in school.
It’s absolutely normal for parents to feel guilty for separating their children from the other partner on Father’s Day and other holidays. In fact, it shows how much they care about the happiness of their children. However, it’s important to remember that children are much safer, happier and healthier when they are not living in an abusive environment.