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6 Ways To Break The Cycle Of Child Abuse

Deepanwita Roy, Clinical Psychologist

Child abuse can take many forms such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse & neglect.

June 4th is observed as “International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression” as declared by the United Nations’ (UN). The purpose of the day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse. Prevalence of all forms of child abuse is extremely high in India; one recent study has shown that 76% of the participants have reported being a victim of abuse as children, out of which 44% have reported their perpetrators being a family member. Alarming isn’t it?

Regardless of the type of abuse, the impact of child abuse is life-long and irrevocable. If you suspect a child is suffering from any form of abuse or neglect, it’s important to speak out. By catching the problem as early as possible, both the child and the abuser can get the help they absolutely need. 

Child abuse can take many forms such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse and neglect. In most of the situations, it is committed by someone who the child knows and trusts, often a relative or parent. Also, child abuse doesn’t only restrict to one form of abuse but often occur at the same time. It’s important to be aware of the warning signs or sudden unprecedented behavioural changes seen in children in order to take the right action at the right time. 

  • Physical abuse is where children are being physically beaten or being bullied. Few warning signs are any unexplained bruises, cuts, marks and children exhibiting sudden fearful or shy behaviour.  
  • Sexual abuse is where the abuser engages in sexual activity with children, such as fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse, exploitation or exposure to child pornography. Any form of difficulties in sitting or standing, swelling, bruises or bleeding in the genital area is a red flag. Other than that, many times, children starting to show knowledge or interest in sexual acts which is inappropriate to their age could also be a warning sign. 
  • Emotional abuse (also known as, psychological abuse) where the child’s self-esteem or emotional well-being is being injured by constant verbal and emotional assault. The children often show extreme behaviours, such as, being overly emotional or being passive-aggressive, displaying regressive tendencies, withdrawing themselves socially, often refusing to go to school, desperately starting to seek affection or validation or even showing symptoms of clinical depression. 
  • Neglect is when the children are not provided with the food, affection, supervision, education and medical care they require. Other than the definite changes such as not maintaining basic hygiene, showing signs of malnutrition– aimless unsupervised roaming, as well as troublesome or disruptive behaviour, are major red flags while identifying neglect. 

The long-term impact of child abuse:

Any type of abuse and neglect can have lasting scars. Some of these scars might be physical, but emotional scarring has long-lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self, their future relationships, and ability to function at home, work and school. 

  • They develop a lack of trust and relationship difficulties. Without a strong foundation to a trusting relationship, it is very difficult to trust other people or know who is trustworthy. This often leads to difficulties in maintaining adult relationships
  • They develop a feeling of being ‘worthless.’ Continuous bashing and emotional abuse can have a long-lasting effect on children; as they grow up, they may neglect their education or even settle for unsatisfying jobs just because they feel they are not worthy of something good. 
  • They find it difficult to regulate their emotions. Many types of research have shown that adults with a history of abuse have struggled with unexplained anxiety, depression or even rage or anger.  Also, the prevalence of alcohol or drug abuse is also common. 

Breaking the cycle of abuse:

You can take the right measure to protect your child from exploitation and child abuse, as well as prevent child abuse in your neighbourhood or community. The goal is to provide safe, stable, nurturing relationships for your child.

  • Develop new parenting skills. Parenting is not how you have been raised as a child but parenting is what is appropriate for you! It’s based on your child’s needs and most importantly what works for you as a modern-day parent. 
  • Offer your child love and attention. A supportive family environment can foster a child’s self-worth and self-esteem. Nurture your child, listen and be involved in his or her life to developing trust and good communication. Encourage your child to tell you if there’s a problem. 
  • Take care of yourself. A physically and mentally healthy person can nurture a healthier child. Learn to control your own emotions. Get adequate rest and support whenever you feel overwhelmed otherwise, you are much more likely to succumb to anger. If you feel overwhelmed or out of control, take a break. Don’t take out your anger on your child. 
  • Think of supervision. Avoid leaving your child at home alone. In public, keep a close eye on your child. Volunteer at school and for activities to get to know the adults who spend time with your child.
  • Know your child’s caregivers. Make irregular, but frequent, unannounced visits to observe what’s happening when you’re leaving your child with babysitters or other caregivers. 
  • Get professional help. Breaking the cycle of abuse can be very difficult if the patterns are strongly entrenched. In order to be a mindful parent and raise your child, you can opt for professional help to learn parenting skills or even manage your own emotions.

As new-age parents, it’s okay to be overwhelmed with your child’s health and behaviour. The world is growing fast and your kids are growing even faster each day. In case of any doubts regarding your child, before stressing out over it, it’s advisable that you consult a mental health professional near you to clarify your doubts and be in a stress-free place and enjoy parenting. Download the MFine app today and get in touch with best child specialists from your city.

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