- Leaving an abusive relationship can be difficult and complicated—especially when there is a child involved.
- Victims of the abuse might feel uncertain about what to do in these situations, but the short answer is always the same: leave.
- To go into greater depth, the victim should do what they can to make any necessary preparations and then grab the children and go—get out of the dangerous situation.
- It’s important the child’s best interest and wellbeing remains of utmost importance moving forward… in deciding whether or not he/she gets to stay in contact with the abuser and what they’re told about the situation.
- When it comes to talking to the child about what’s happened and what’s going on, you should first find out what they already know.
- Then, offer necessary details, all the while observing their reactions; navigate the conversation accordingly, and don’t forget to offer them love and support, now and always.
By this point, Morgan’s used to being pushed around—literally and figuratively. Her boyfriend, Jon, who used to treat her with the utmost love and respect, became abusive about 2 years into their relationship. It started with words: demeaning, condescending, cruel words. Then it turned into a little nudge here and there. Now, though rarely, it’s a slap of the hand or a push up against the wall.
Morgan is sure that Jon would never hurt their son Connor. He’s never shown a hint of aggression toward their 5-year-old, but how sure can you be? She can’t help but worry about Connor’s safety, and think about getting out. About leaving and finding a better life for the both of them.
Plan, Prepare, and Get Out
In scenarios of the like, what’s the best course of action for people like Morgan to take? In other words, how do you leave an abusive relationship when a child is involved? Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert, gives a plain and simple answer: you plan as best you can, and you just get out. “In many cases, you need to just leave. Professionals often advise to make the necessary preparations in advance, and once you’ve made that happen, you leave. No ifs, ands, or buts. Take the children and go,” he says.
Now, once you’ve left the dangerous situation (great job), things can get a little more complicated. But it’s important to know and remember that those who are trying to help have your kid’s best interest in mind: “Whether or not the children should stay with the abusive parent depends wholly on the specific circumstances, but more often than not, the children initially go with the one who was abused,” Backe explains. “If the abuser contests this in court, then it is up to the law to decide whether or not the abuser poses any threat or danger to the children, and award custody accordingly.”
Now What? Supporting Your Child Moving Forward
First and foremost, good on you for getting out of a situation that threatened you and your child’s safety. I know you might be feeling down or anxious or confused, but you deserve a pat on the back; you deserve to take a sigh of relief. Now, once you’ve taken a moment to yourself, let’s walk through what to do next. What do you say to your child and how do you say it? Backe highlights a few tips that will help you find some solid ground in approaching this conversation:
1) Find out what they know.
First, you should find out what they know and what they’ve observed. “As for talking to your kids about abuse, you should first get their view on the matter, and then supplement them,” says Backe. “Ask them what they have seen or heard, and get the ball rolling that way.”
2) Don’t overburden.
Next, don’t overwhelm them with details—especially details they’re better off not knowing. “Be careful not to overburden your children with discussion, and be mindful of your feelings and how you express them in front of them,” says Backe.
3) Observe and adjust accordingly.
As you move forward with the conversation, observe their reactions and adjust your approach accordingly. “Even if your child is listening, it does not mean they are understanding it all. There is a fair bit that goes over their heads, depending on the age, and you don’t want to do any more damage than has already been done,” Backe explains.
4) Offer love and support.
Finally, be sure to offer a wealth of love and support. That’s what they really need now and always. “What kids need more than anything is support,” says Backe. “They should know that they have someone to turn to, someone to talk to, someone who has an open set of ears, and hopefully an open heart.”