When children witness violence in the home, they are not bystanders in the frightening drama that often unfolds before their eyes. Children hear. Children see. Children feel. Much like children caught in the crossfire of a war-zone, children who experience violence in the home, can react with fear, helplessness, confusion, and shock. Their sense of safety, confidence and trust in themselves, in their home, and in their family are affected. However, children can heal from the effects of family violence if given the opportunity to process what they have experienced in a safe environment sensitive to their feelings and thoughts.
In the well known poem “Children Learn What They Live” author Dorothy Law Notle writes:
If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy.
If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement,
They learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient.
If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance,
They learn to love.
If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty,
They learn truthfulness.
If children live with security,
They learn to have faith in themselves and others.
If children live with friendliness,
They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
The Safe Steps Child Witness program is a ten week, two hour program for mothers and children who have experienced violence in the home. The goals of the program are: to interrupt the cycle of violence, to help children heal from the trauma of witnessing /being exposed to family violence, to provide a safe environment in which children can process their thoughts and feelings, and to enable the children learn new ways of behaving. The topics covered in the group are: what is abuse, feelings, anger, violence in families, responsibility for violence, family changes, safety planning, sexual abuse prevention and self-esteem. Children are divided into three groups according to their ages. A mother’s group runs in conjunction with the children’s groups. It is based on an education and support model, which provides a forum for sharing information and resources. Moms and children will discover ways to deal with the emotions, conflict, anger and changes that result from abuse.
The Safe Steps Child Witness program is open to any family in the community who have experienced abuse. To attend the mother and children need to not be residing with the abusive partner. The program runs three sessions a year- fall, winter and spring. The spring program is finishing, however there will be opportunity to participate in the fall program.
If you would like more information or would like to register for the Safe steps Child Witness program, please call WCSWR at 519-741-9184 ext 2101 and ask to speak with the coordinator of the program.
Clinical Support Worker