My stalking ex has now been released from custody, again. I’m anxious about what may come, and steeling myself for whatever I must do next to keep myself and my child safe. So, for the third day of my Twelve Days of Christmas series, I’m looking at children caught in the crossfire of domestic abuse during the festive season.
Avalanche Community call: Friends, what has worked for you? What are your highlights, lowlights and must-avoid pitfalls? Please share your own tips and experiences, and hopefully together we can help others to enjoy a safe and merry Christmas!
DAY THREE if you are living with your abuser
We all know that children love Christmas. It should be a delight for parents as we watch their excitement building as the big day gets closer. But how many of us feel that knot of anxiety growing tighter in our stomachs as the festivities get into swing? How many of us feel not joy, but dread about what our own Bad Santa will do to destroy the magic? How many of us try even harder than usual to hide the abuse from the kids?
Don’t kid yourself that the abuse you are experiencing doesn’t affect the children. It does. Profoundly. Read my post, Mothers: two big reasons to leave, to find out how even unborn children are affected by domestic abuse.
WHY NOT do this today?
As you struggle under the enormous weight of abuse, trying to meet the demands of your abuser and keep the family afloat, you don’t have as much quality time with your children as you’d like. Even if you are not ready to leave, this Christmas you can give your child the best present ever: uninterrupted time with YOU.
So today, take your child out somewhere. You could choose a walk along the beach, a quiet ice cream parlour, or even a scenic drive. Wherever you choose, make the most of this time to talk to and really listen to your child.
Silence or denial is a tried and tested coping mechanism for those of us suffering intimate partner abuse. But, most children want and need the opportunity to talk about the abuse they are witnessing – and maybe even are suffering themselves. Let them know they can always talk to you. Tell them that you understand their Christmas may not seem like it does in the movies. Ask them how it makes them feel when they hear yelling or see violence. Reassure them that it is not their fault. Don’t frighten them, but be as honest and open as you can – your child trusts you to tell them the truth.
DAY THREE if you have escaped your abuser
Christmas is an ideal opportunity for lashings of emotional blackmail. If your abuser has access to your children, he WILL use them ruthlessly to push your buttons during the season-of-goodwill. Expect the children to come home from visitation saying things like:
Christmas would be much nicer if daddy were here
Dad says you are the reason our family split up
Daddy is going to buy me a new bicycle for Christmas
He doesn’t have anywhere to to go for Christmas dinner. He’ll be all alone.
WHY NOT do this today?
Do not take the bait. Sit down with your children and explain – if you haven’t already done so – that they can always talk to you about their worries and feelings. Whatever else you do, DO NOT succumb to his manipulative tactics – it will be the thin end of the wedge he needs to re-insert himself into your life. Peace on Earth and goodwill to men only extends so far!
Importantly, don’t allow your kids to get caught in the crossfire: sound off to your mother or best friend, but don’t tell your children what you really think of their abusive, scumbag parent! I know it means that you are again the responsible adult, while he gets to carry on wreaking destruction – but, after all, that’s what you’ve always done, and that’s why your children love and respect you.
Check out my post, An Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Christmas, for more tips on keeping safe and happy this festive season.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14 https://avalancheofthesoul.wordpress.com