The use of emotional abuse on children is a toxic interaction that must be identified and stopped before it causes life scars. Now that you know a lot about emotional abuse in your home and life, you must make sure that it does not ruin your own children’s development and happy home life.
Some common ways that children are emotionally abused:
Being rejected by the parent, such as being the scapegoat for problems, the parent being emotionally detached from the child, swearing at the child, shaming the child, forcibly isolating the child from healthy interaction with others (especially confining the child to closets or attics as punishment), threatening to hurt or kill the child or something he loves, forcing a child to experience something violent/cruel/pornographic/intoxicating (alcohol or drugs), or exploiting the child for profit.
Recognizing the signs of an emotionally abused child:
An abused child “shows” abuse in much the same way that an adult does, such as low self-esteem, inability to trust others, trouble sleeping or eating, acting in a self-destructive way, reacting in fear toward one member of the opposite sex (or all people), lack of emotional control, or having difficulty getting along with others. You know your children best, and can best decide which behaviors seem out of the ordinary. Keep in mind, as you recognize your own abuse, that what you may have thought of as your child’s “personality” is actually a product of emotional abuse that you haven’t seen first-hand.
Children receiving abuse are always in the lookout for someone who could be his/her champion. Is there a neighbour who can be gentle and supportive? Is a teacher publicly recognizing their good work? Are friends in school showing love for them?
Remember that an abused child will go around with antennae ready to perceive if the rest of the world will reject them or not. Any bit of appreciation, respect or support is cherished, because it means that not all the world thinks they are despicable, worthless or unloveable. Such proofs can be gathered anywhere; I remember myself being acquainted with all the cats of the neighbourhood, who would wait for me along my path to school… we would spend some minutes petting, scratching, and in general being the support system of each other.
That is the reason we need caring grown ups all around: the bit of self-esteem nourishment we need daily comes primarily from adults, who we see as our protectors. If the child makes it to teen years, and this supply of affection has been at the side, hidden but constant, the child knows that he is lovable, regardless of the family treatment. He or she can then look at the future with hope and confidence.
It doesn’t mean that all is healed or repaired; it only means that hope is there, that he or she can work in the future learning how to belong in a healthy way, and that he or she belongs, and deserves affection and respect.
In this sense, we all hold this hope torch for each other: “life is worth living, just bear whatever you are going through now and you will be OK, with other people who can recognize the wonderful person you are…” Don’t forget to bear that torch up for yourself and for your children, so that you can all make it out of this abuse situation with a better future in sight.