Emotional Abuse in Children and What Foster Parents Can Do

Although emotional abuse can hurt as much as physical abuse, it can be harder to identify, because the marks are left on the inside.  These bruises don’t show on the outside!

Emotional abuse is more than just verbal abuse.  It is an attack on a child’s emotional and social development, and is a basic threat to healthy human development.  It involves word, actions, indifference, and leaving a child feeling rejected, ignored, belittled, dominated, and criticized.  It envelopes things such as regularly being threatened, yelled at, humiliated and blamed or being called all sort of names.

Emotional child abuse also includes excessive demands on a child’s performance; punishing a child for demonstrating signs of positive self-esteem or being ignored.  Children also experience emotional when frequently being exposed to family violence or when the parent or care giver is unwilling or unable to demonstrate affection or provide stimulation for the child.  This limits the child’s own sense of his or her potential, for example if a child is constantly being told they are useless, what future does he or she see for themselves?

Children learn to interact with the world through their early interactions with their parents.  If parents are warm and loving, children grow to see the world as a secure place for exploration and learning.  When parents are cold to their children, they deprive the child of the necessary skills for intellectual and social development.  Children who are consistently subjected to coldness, grow to see the world as a cold, uninviting place, and will likely experience difficulty in building healthy relationships in the future.  They may also never feel confident to explore and learn.

The consequences of emotional child abuse can be serious and long-term.  These children may experience a lifelong pattern of depression, estrangement, anxiety, low self-esteem, inappropriate or troubled relationships, or a lack of empathy.  During their childhood, victims may fail to thrive or their developmental progress may be halted.  As teenagers, they often find it difficult to trust, participate in and achieve happiness in interpersonal relationships.  As adults, they may have trouble recognizing and appreciating the needs and feeling of their own children and abuse them emotionally as well.

What Foster Parents can do to break the chain:

  • Develop a strong attachment/bond with the child;
  • Express warmth and positive regard for him/her;
  • Speak to the child as you would like to be spoken to;
  • Practice non-violent communication in our relationships with them and others;
  • Never be afraid to apologize. If you lose your temper and say something in anger that wasn’t meant to be said, apologize. Children need to know that adults can admit when they are wrong;
  • Address behavior that needs correcting and use appropriate discipline techniques, such as time outs or natural consequences. Be sure to discuss the child’s behavior and the reason for the discipline, both before and immediately after you discipline. Discipline should be provided to correct your child’s behavior, rather than to punish or humiliate him or her;
  • Compliment him/her when they accomplishes even a small task, or when you see good behavior.
  • Embrace the responsibility placed in our hands by our Heavenly Father to teach through love.

About Helouise Steenkamp

I'm a 45 plus, Devoted Wife and Mother. Adonai has blessed us with two Amazingly Wonderful Sons. We have had the privilege of being Place of Safety parents for 1 1/2 years and there after foster parents to a Darling Princess for 5 years. She was reconciled with her biological parents in Dec'14. Our hearts are still aching from the loss, but we know that as we trust Adonai with our salvation, so we can trust Him with her future. We welcomed our new 4 year old foster child on 05JUN'15.
This entry was posted in Foster Care Advice, Helping to bring Healing, Knitting Your Family, Parenting with Love, Place of Safety Advice. Bookmark the permalink.

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