I debated whether or not to write this entry, but the issue of raising healthy children is so big . . . it is the difference between a thriving, healthy culture and one that tears itself apart. I’ve written before about how important parenting is. It goes even beyond that.
We know that what a woman ingests affects the development of her baby (caffeine, drugs, alcohol, et cetera), but now we know even her mental and emotional state affect the development of the baby. When a woman is under stress, those flight or fight hormones affect the baby, too. The constant stress sets the baby up to be stressed more quickly after they are born (prone to anxiety), and to have the physical ailments that stress promotes (heart problems, digestive problems, et cetera). They are more apt to be hyper-vigilant, constantly on the alert for trouble.
In domestic violence situations, infants and toddlers may not form secure attachments to a parent, which sets them up for a host of psychological problems. The fear and instability may make them timid, or aggressive. They may zone out with toys or the television. We learn more and faster as little children, because our brains are like sponges, soaking up language and culture and everything we need to know as a basis for the rest of our lives. So what do children learn in a domestic violence situation? (And this is true even when the domestic violence is entirely verbal.) They learn
Violence and threats get you what you want
People are either aggressors or victims
Victims are to blame for violence
When people hurt others, they do not get in trouble
Anger, drinking, or drugs cause violence
Anger should be suppressed because it can get out of control
Unhealthy, unequal relationships are normal or to be expected
No one has the right to be treated with respect
None of that is true and/or healthy. None. But it is a great recipe for someone becoming a “client” of the legal system, health system, and/or the mental health system.
Some of the best work is this field has been done by Dr. Bruce Perry. If you would like more information, including how to help children who have lived with domestic violence, I recommend you go to the Center for Children and Families in the Justice System, www.lfcc.on.ca . They have some excellent resources and ideas.
And yes, the violence in someone else’s family IS your problem. Because there is a good chance the children will wind up in some public supported system (welfare, social services, mental health, prison) and require more of the necessary personnel to deal with them. Hint to the conservatives: Raising healthy children will save us money.
Children literally are our future.