The pandemic and quarantine measures don’t just cause stress on a couple’s relationship, it can also be detrimental to a child to live in an unhealthy home. The child isn’t just missing out on the educational atmosphere, they are losing out on their support network for things like encouragement and identifying abuse and neglect. Many children find school as their only break from the harmful behaviors at home.
In part two of NAM’s 5-part series, Sheryl Johnson, Director of the Family Violence Center at NAM, shares how children are marked by family violence in the shadow of COVID-19.
For a child living in a home with domestic violence, what changes for them now that they’re having to stay home?
“Almost every teacher I know, from elementary to high school can tell you a story about a student who had a concern about something at home,” said Johnson. “Students will share those stories with their teacher or other safe school personnel. Teachers and counselors find resources, identify ways to help the family and offer support to the student. Who does that now?”
“Young people also develop incredibly strong relationships with their classmates, some they may visit outside of school and some they simply see on campus,” Johnson continued. “This quarantine, being stuck in a home with these unhealthy behaviors, makes it even more unlikely that they will be in contact with their personal support networks.”
What other ways can quarantine affect a child living in an unhealthy home?
“Reports indicate that some of our area schools have as many as 60% of their students receiving free or reduced lunches,” said Johnson. “Our schools have been doing an amazing job of providing drive-up food distribution programs, but there has been at least one story of a batterer who did not want the embarrassment of their family publicly receiving a hand-out. So, where does the food come from in that situation?”
Having to stay at home, an at-risk child will see the abuse even more. Do you think that harms a child’s self-esteem?
“Yes, it very well can,” said Johnson. “I am sure that everyone has seen one of those videos on social media, the teacher who welcomes each student into a classroom with a handshake, or has a check-in board where a student can say how they are feeling today, or organizes a compliment contest for students to say positive things about their classmates,” she explained. “All of these activities bolster the self-esteem and self-confidence of our students. By the time they return to school… they may have missed 6 months of this kind of positivity.”
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from domestic violence, call NAM’s Family Violence Center 24-hour hotline for help. Call (281) 885-4673 or toll-free at (888) 750-4673.
The Family Violence Center is dedicated to breaking the cycle of violence by assisting victims of domestic and sexual violence through crisis intervention, long-term support services, and through community violence and awareness prevention education.