Domestic violence affects every member of the family – including children and teens. Children who are exposed to domestic violence are at a greater risk of being abused; engaging in unhealthy behaviors; potential difficulties in learning and limited social skills; exhibiting violent, risky or delinquent behaviors; or suffer from depression or severe anxiety. Such exposure may include visibly witnessing the violence or abuse against their parent or caretaker; overhearing and listening to threatening and abusive behavior; as well as exposure to the responses of our communities – including law enforcement, child protection, the court system, and advocates – to their families’ situation. While children can be negatively affected by domestic violence (both in the immediate and long-term) children respond to trauma in a variety of ways which, may include self-protective coping mechanisms and strategies for healing. Thus, the need for early intervention with children of domestic violence is crucial.
There are a variety of programs that developed nationally and statewide to help children and their parents heal from domestic violence, as well as to learn new behaviors and strategies that help promote healthier relationships as they move forward.
In Gloucester and Cumberland County, Center For Family Services offers the Peaceful Tomorrows program. Throughout a period of 12-15 individual and joint parent-child sessions, Peaceful Tomorrows staff provide a safe and supportive environment to express emotions and explore nonviolent ways of managing anger. Counselors employ proven therapeutic methods to help participants feel empowered to make choices, improve their own confidence and self-esteem, and heal from the trauma of domestic violence.