Helping children understand an abusive ex partner

When one parent is abusive it is devastating for the children and all family members involved.

In the UK family courts children will be protected from an abusive parent, either with no access or limited access, sometimes in a designated safe location.

After any abuse that the children have gone through, whether physical or mental, getting to the outcome of reduced access and the change in routine can also be traumatic for them. It can also be very traumatic for the other parent and so if you are in this situation it is vital you seek proper legal advice from an experienced family lawyer.

If you discover that the other parent is being abusive you must remove yourself and your children from the situation as soon as possible. If you have any difficulties in doing this then do not hesitate in calling the police.

Contact a family lawyer as soon as you can and they will provide you with the help and guidance that you need to protect yourself and your children and ensure ongoing protection.

When you have been able to protect your children from the abuse you are going to want to help them to come to terms with it and to understand that they haven’t done anything wrong. This is a very difficult process and one that you will need to revisit as they grow older.

The most important step is to ensure they feel confident and happy in asking you questions. Always give them an answer of some description that is age appropriate. This way you can let them take the lead and help guide you to provide them with the information that they need.

Young children are very accepting of their circumstances and may not have seen the abuse as something that is wrong, especially if it has been going on for some time. Children are also naturally programmed to love their parents, therefore suddenly losing contact with one may be confusing if they are very young, so it is important you are not surprised if they start asking for the abusive parent.

As they get older they will start to realise that something was wrong and want to know more. Therefore all the details you tell them from a young age must be things that you can build on. Bottling up a long succession of lies will not help you or your child as you move forward. Similarly simply not talking about the absent parent can cause some children to start fantasise and idolise the parent which will only lead to bitter disappointment.

Every situation is different so it may be worth talking to a professional to help communicate your situation to your children. However you tell them about their other parent, reassure them that nothing was their fault and they can talk to you and keep them as settled in your new life as you can.