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how to support children who witness gender-based violence

How to support children who witness gender-based violence


Reaffirm your unconditional love for your child. Let them know that you will always love them no matter how bad their behavior is.


Allow your child to express a range of feelings. When parents’ separate children may feel angry, afraid, confused, or worried about who will take care of them. These are natural reactions you can expect from your child.

Allow your child to time to confide these feelings and accept that they may confided these feelings to other adults or friends.

Example of open-ended questions

  • What does it feel like?
  • Tell me more about?
  • How are you feeling right now?
  • What would you like to talk about?
  • Where would you like to begin?
  • How is that (specific) for you?
  • How do you feel about that?
  • Can you tell me what that means to you?
  • What do you imagine?
  • What have you thought of?
  • What would it be like?
  • How do you see things changing?
  • What would you like to do about?
  • I’m wondering?
  • What’s that like?
  • What can you think of?
  • What’s important for now?
  • How would you like things to be?

The following are suggestions NOT recommendations on how to navigate such situations.



Reassure them that you as a family will manage all the changes. It may take time, but you will do play and you will always look after them.

Reassure them that they are not responsible for the abuse. Often children feel that their behavior caused the fighting and/or separation, they need to be told that it is an adult problem and they did not cause it.

Reassure your child that you don’t expect them to look after you. Make sure you go through a safety plan. Give them the skills to phone 911, brainstorm a list of people they can go to if they need help, and safe places in their home.


Help them understand that your family is not the only family to have had this experience, and that other families have handled this satiation successfully. /p>


Encourage them to talk about what they saw. It may be hard to hear what they have to say, but everyone needs the change to express their feelings-especially feelings of anger, hurt, pain or fear.

Encourage your child to just be a child and not act as a surrogate partner. Give them permission to be a child.


Remember your child is not the abuser. Do not tell them that they are “just like”: the abuser, especially when they are having trouble controlling their anger. The relationship with you is different-the power dynamics are different.


Mention to your child’s teacher or daycare staff that there has been a change in your family. It helps that your child will be understood and supported by other adults. If there is a change in your child’s behavior, they will be better able to help your child.

The following information is adapted from the Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre Peer Support Handbook