Hand-Me-Downs

ashamed1“You are such an idiot, I hate you!” my youngest spat angrily.

“Shut up, you jerk!” my son snapped in response.

Often, I find myself as the mediator to some showdown of verbal firepower between my three children. We try to focus on using kind words and not saying things that would hurt someone’s feelings. However, it’s as if the behavior is instilled in them and will be repeated no matter how hard I try to correct it. As a child, I remember bickering with my sister and at times raising our voices, but never with the amount of anger as my children display. Their behavior is most likely the effect of being exposed to the verbally abusive relationship that we recently left. Although I did my best to hide it from them, to keep them from hearing the profanities that most likely reverberated through the entirety of our house, they were exposed. Studies show that 90 percent of children in homes where there is domestic violence, know it is going on.

They are tiny sponges, absorbing everything around them, constantly learning through observation.

Domestic violence is a learned behavior. So for it to continue generation after generation, these abusers are exposed to it as children. They may grow up watching their father beat their mother, or vice versa. According to Safe Horizon, recent studies suggest that more than three million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year. The effect of witnessing parents verbally and physically abusing one another can be detrimental to the mental health and overall well-being of the children exposed. As mentioned in our post, Gang for Justice, these children are more likely to become abusive as adults or end up as victims of abuse. Thus it continues through the generations. Children that are exposed to domestic violence can also incur other adverse effects as adults, such as homelessness, poverty, depression, drug abuse, and poor physical and mental health. Giving children the best chance for success is one of the many reasons why we need to bring awareness to the impact of ALL types of domestic violence.

There is an unspoken pressure on us, in this Game of Life, to have a picture-perfect family with picture-perfect portraits plastered all over social media. I believe this is why most people stay in abusive relationships for so long. In most social circles, divorcing is greatly frowned upon, especially if there is no evidence that anything is wrong in the relationship. For the longest time, I was persuaded that divorce would have a terrible impact on my children, depriving them of an unbroken home. When in actuality, it was already broken. It is significantly more disastrous to their general health than divorce. Children need the stability of healthy relationships in order to thrive and become responsible and caring adults. Granted, there are some that overcome their circumstances, growing into the most incredible individuals you could ever meet. But it is rare, and they still must beat all odds, conquering obstacles that no child should ever face.

We try to focus on using kind words and not saying things that would hurt someone’s feelings.

Be wary of how a child interacts with siblings and peers. If they are constantly putting down their siblings, or refuse to accept responsibility for their own bad behavior, these indicate abusive tendencies. It is not too late to correct these behaviors. We can teach them compassion, love, and the appropriate way to treat others, but we first have to remove them from lifestyles that are abusive. I found that the most helpful outlet for my kids after the divorce was family counseling. They received a little one-on-one time with a licensed family therapist, allowing them an objective person to discuss all of their fears, feelings, and pains. Therapists can help them understand why decisions had to be made and help them understand their feelings about those decisions.

Parents set the foundation of the future for their children. They are tiny sponges, absorbing everything around them, constantly learning through observation. If they live in a dangerous home environment where the parents fight and argue and belittle one another, then they will grow up to believe that behavior is normal. As a child, we are greatly influenced by our parents. We look up to them. We watch them. We mimic them. And somewhere out there, there are three million children watching and mimicking abuse. One day they will abuse. One day they will perpetuate the cycle. We must stop this. Help us end the cycle. Children are our future, we need to instill in them love, tenacity, independence, and the ability to lead with compassion.

~Christa G.

7 thoughts on “Hand-Me-Downs

  1. ErikawithaK

    Great post! My first memories of my parents were drama-filled. I was 5 years old. They thought I didn’t know, but I knew. I may not have had the vocabulary to put the name with the face, but I always knew something wasn’t quite right. The effect on me was profound and deep. I developed trichotillomania, nervous belly at the sound of a fight, and a lack of trust for just about anyone I meet. I’m still working through these things to this day. On a brighter note – I am happily married to a guy I have never and will never fight with. Not to say we won’t disagree, but I will never fight. He knows this, and we do our best to adhere to that rule. We have so little time in this life, so little time to be in love with each other. How can I spend one second fighting with my most important person??? I never understand when someone says that fighting is healthy for a relationship. If that’s the case, you can keep it. No thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry to hear that your parents distress caused so much trauma for you. It is unfortunate that children should suffer due to an adult’s regrettable decisions. But I am happy to see that you have a healthy relationship and those issues are being worked on. And that belief that true love comes with so much toil and heartache is what we are working on debunking. So many people sadly believe that because they witness their parents or their friends fight so much that that is to be expected in a true relationship. This is not the case! Fighting regularly in a relationship is not healthy! We want more people to realize this. Thank you for your comment and we wish you all the best!–Lindsey V.

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  2. Hi Christa, this is such an honest and well written article. I greatly admire your deep sharing with others of how it was for you in a (thankfully, past!) verbally abusive relationship and how, even afterwards, it can continue to influence … and how that cycle of abuse, if not stopped just keep on going, moving onto the next generation.

    I’m so pleased that you have found the strength and courage needed to leave that deadly relationship and that are now forging ahead, healing and motivating others to leave similar family circumstances. I’m really happy that the family counselling has helped you and your children. You and Lindsey, with your great blog, are an inspiration to many!

    If you haven’t already come across Patricia Evans incredible book ‘The Verbally Abusive Relationship’ I can highly recommend it. One of the things she talks about at great length is that the verbal abuser and partner seem to live in two different realities. I’m delighted that you’ve decided not to stick around and listen to those insidious put-downs any longer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deborah~
      Thank you so much for your encouraging words. Your comments always uplift and motivate me to do more every chance I get! It is my hope to reach others that find themselves torn between making a decision that they fear simply because of the perception that divorce should be an absolute last resort. In my case marriage counseling never fixed anything, some people refuse to change and if you stick around long enough they will destroy the livelihood of their spouse and their children. I was incredibly lucky to have a support system in my parents and sisters that enabled me to change my circumstance.
      Thank you for the recommendation of the book ‘The Verbally Abusive Relationship’ I can’t wait to read it!
      ~Christa~

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