Child abuse is a severe and prevalent issue but often overlooked by parents and wards. Many parents abuse their child one way or the other without knowing. Most times, this abuse can distort the physical and mental wellbeing of the child and can be life-threatening.
If you currently have to deal with an abusive parent, or you know someone who does, know that it is crucial to seek help and to work toward coping in healthy ways, for your immediate safety and in the long run. Here are four ways you can cope with an abusive parent.
1. Call for Help
Calling for help is likely the most crucial step to take to survive an abusive parent; this is because in most cases children find themselves in a position where they are unable to make any significant change about the situation. They may even be too scared to seek help, and may also deny the abuse if support comes.
If you find yourself in such a situation, have at the back of your mind that the later you reach out for help the more you endanger yourself. Consider reaching out to law enforcement such as the police if it is a case of extreme physical abuse or death treat. Or you could reach out to other family members for help or a local department of child/family services if there is one.
Furthermore, if you are too scared to speak out, you could get your information conveyed through a mandated reporter such as your teacher or therapist.
2. Identify the type of abuse you are experiencing
Being able to identify the kind of abuse you experience is very important because it puts you in a better position to know where and how to seek help. Before you call for help, make sure you have identified the act as abuse. This way, you don’t get to put your parents or others through unnecessary trouble because of healthy parenting actions.
Difference kinds of Abuse
There are different types of abuse, and it is imperative that you identify what kind you are dealing with. Below are some of the most common forms of abuse:
2.1. Physical abuse refers to actions that cause physical damage to your body; this includes slapping, punching, hitting amongst others. For this sort of abuse, you can seek help from law enforcement.
2.2. Sexual assault against a child includes having sexual contacts, intercourse, touching a child’s private parts to stimulate them, or other sexual acts. Exposing a child to sexual contents could also be regarded as sexual abuse. For this sort of damage, you can cry out to a responsible adult in the family or seek law enforcement intervention.
2.3. Neglect is when a parent refuses to provide the child with his necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical treatment. The child could suffer poor hygiene, poor nutrition, looking unclean or smells terrible, wears an inappropriate dress, and has underlying medical or physical issues yet to be treated.
Leaving a child alone for an extended period without adult supervision, as well as the child missing or often being late for school, could also be a sign of neglect. In this case, you can consult a child protective agency.
2.4. Verbal abuse refers to an inappropriate way of communication that could cause psychological harm. This includes yelling, threatening, being called abusive names, shaming, belittling amongst others. Children who experience verbal and emotional abuse are often socially withdrawn. They may also feel a sense of shame or guilt, become less attached to parent or guardian, and may begin to worry about their behaviour.
Children who experience verbal abuse may also behave in ways that are abnormal for a their age, they become very compliant, shy or very obstinate, argumentative, or acting above or below their age.
Furthermore, the experience of domestic violence in the family could also cause a child to suffer emotional distress. On cases like this consult a mandated reporter such as your teacher or therapist to help address the issue.
3. Plan your safety
If you feel unsafe and fear that abuse is likely to occur again, it would be helpful to make plans to protect yourself. Therefore, you have to map out strategies that would help you protect yourself from danger and prevent future damage. Here are a few things to consider and include in your plan:
3.1. Identifying warning signs identifying warning signs: You stand a better chance to escape if you can identify a warning sign on time, some common things that could trigger abusive behaviour include; alcohol or drug use, intensified anger or stress, and usual acts of domestic violence. Once you notice any possible sign danger, make efforts to escape.
3.2. How to make an escape: Keeping yourself safe from harm should be your utmost priority. Use experience from past occurrence to Identify possible situations that may occur based on the warning signs you observed.
Furthermore, knowing the right places to go should be an integral part of the plan, Identify common locations where you make likely encounter an abusive parent and trigger their abusive behavior. If you notice the action happens in a particular room, be sure to plan for an easy exit out of that room, you may consider using a door or window.
Have a smooth escape plan that makes it easy to leave the room. If you attempt to hide in your own house, you might get stuck somewhere and may not be able to move to a safer place.
Make sure to study your home thoroughly to Identify escape routes, learn the easiest and fastest ways to access these routes.
3.3. Plan for a safe place to seek refuge: Identify safe places to go to when in danger, such as a public place, neighbor, or friend’s house. Make sure the abusive parent doesn’t visit such places often, and also make sure you are always welcome there. Also, put into consideration when you can have access to these places and how fast you could get there without being followed.
It would be beneficial if you have other backup plans in case your escape doesn’t go as planned. Also include the contacts of people you can rely on for support who can keep you away from danger or intervene whenever you are in trouble.
Keep significant phone numbers such as emergency service or the nearest police station at all times. Make sure to write down each step of the plan and practice it if possible, it may be challenging to keep this information in your head.
4. Using Coping Skills
Being around an abusive parent can come with a lot of psychological effects, this is why coping skills are required to keep one’s mental health in check. Coping skills help one manage the situation more effectively by reducing the feeling overwhelmed.
There are several coping skills you can adopt, such as: listening to music, playing games or sports, watching movies or exercising. Such activities help shift your mind away from abusive experiences. You can also use several relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation.
When adopting a coping skill, you must identify unhelpful coping skills and limit them. These coping skills do not help alleviate your emotional distress in a long-term, this may include: blaming yourself, compelling yourself to think the abuse was not that bad, or being abused is a regular thing. These negative strategies for coping with violence can be detrimental to your mental health.
5. Invest in Yourself
Furthermore, you should invest more of your time on other beneficial aspects of your life, such as doing well at school or learning a skill. Though it is a parent’s job to guide their ward in the right path, an abusive parent will not have the time.
Staying focused on your hopes and dreams makes you see the possibility of a better future, and drives you to keep on working towards achieving your goals. This also helps take your mind away from the thoughts of giving up because of bad experiences.
If you are a Christian, another way to cope is by getting acquainted with the bible. God’s word offers you hope, comfort and advice, you can also reach out to a minister in your local church for help and advice.