As we shared in a previous post, the back-to-school transition can bring additional stress for families impacted by intimate partner violence. Back-to-school is traditionally an exciting time, but for parents and kids in the midst of a family crisis, returning to the classroom can add an additional layer of complication and stress to their lives.
About 1 in 15 children (or an average of two per classroom) is exposed to domestic violence in their home. Harmed parents often have to consider whether an abuser can access the child or survivor en route to school or at a bus stop; address confusion and sadness from a child who may love and miss the offending parent, and whether to mitigate safety concerns by disclosing details about the abusive relationship to the school and/or the child.
If you’re an educator or fellow parent, look for signs in students that may indicate challenges at home, including sudden changes in a child’s behavior, demeanor, or hygiene; the child not wanting to return home, and changes in academic progress/achievement. Additionally, if a parent leaves a dangerous relationship and has nowhere to go, children may become homeless. Those living in the Center for Women and Families’ shelter take a bus that’s known as “the bus for kids who live in homeless shelters,” which can affect their self-esteem and relationships.
Children impacted by intimate partner violence may also demonstrate some of the following behaviors:
• Fighting/mimicking violence they’ve witnessed
• Sexually inappropriate behavior harmful to self or others
• Being bullied or bullying others
• Falling asleep in class
• Any act that will keep them from going to school or being in the classroom
To reach families and provide proactive support, the Center for Women and Families team attends back-to-school events, trunk-or-treats, and other tabling events; partners with high schools to provide information on domestic violence and healthy relationships; provides training for the ESL Intake Center for JCPS, and offers support groups for parents in Latinx and communities of color on how domestic violence and sexual assault affects children in the home.
You can help, too!
• Volunteer with the Center’s kids in shelter.
• Provide 1:1 time, facilitate small group activities, or help with homework.
• Be the safe space a child needs to share what is happening at home.
• Children going through these situations are living in instability; you can help provide structure to improve their psychological safety.