How to Heal from Emotional Abuse as a Child
With April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, the adversities children face and how to heal from them is an extremely relevant and significant topic to shed light on. When it comes to emotional abuse specifically, the impact it can have on child development is substantial, both short-term and in the long run. That said, it is important to notice and work through emotional abuse among children as soon as possible. Not sure where to begin? We’ve put together a guide on how to heal from emotional abuse to help those working through trauma get started. Read on to learn more about how to help children heal from emotional abuse in any area of their life.
What Is Emotional Abuse?
Understanding what exactly emotional abuse is and how it occurs is the first step to healing this type of trauma. When we are aware of all of the ways emotional abuse can exist, we can better understand it, pinpoint it, and help our children work through the distress. It is important you have the knowledge of what to look for in a dangerous situation so that you can then know when and how to report abuse.
In simple terms, emotional abuse refers to any words or actions that seek to damage one’s self-worth, self-image, self-confidence, or mental wellness.
Here are a few common examples that fall under the category of emotional abuse:
- Verbal abuse (name-calling, yelling, insulting someone)
- Neglect and rejection (dismissing and not tending to needs, thoughts, or opinions)
- Gaslighting (psychological manipulation used against individuals to make their sense of reality seem invalid)
- Isolation tactics (control over a person to the extent that they cannot have or build a social circle outside of the emotionally abusive relationship)
Emotional abuse can exist in any combination of the examples listed above and more. It is important to note that some may be more deceitful and subtle, while others may be very prominent and direct. However, regardless of the degree to which it is present, it is important to heal with the following steps.
Ways to Heal Emotional Abuse
When considering how to heal from emotional abuse, the following steps can each make a significant difference, especially on child development.
Create a Safe Talking Space
One of the first steps to help your child overcome the effects of emotional abuse is to give them a safe space to express their feelings and emotions. Let your child know that you are there to listen to them and their feelings and you will not judge them based on what they tell you or how they feel.
Another way to foster a safe talking space is by opening up to them about your own experiences as long as they are age-appropriate for your child. For example, explain a time when you felt dismissed or bullied by someone and how you overcame that experience.
It is important to keep in mind that creating a safe space takes time and a secure level of built up trust within the relationship. Let your child open up to you on their own without putting too much pressure on them. This will allow them to feel safer in the space you create when it comes to discussing difficult emotional wounds.
Have Your Child Write Out Their Feelings
Next time you are at a bookstore or an art supply store, perhaps pick up a small journal for your child to write out how they are feeling. Journaling is proven to be a great outlet for emotional distress, and in itself can act as a safe space for your child.
If your child is not sure where to begin, here are a few prompts to get them started:
- How are you feeling? Explain.
- What was the best part of your week? What was the worst part of your week? Why?
- What are some things that make you feel good? What are a few things that hurt your feelings? Explain.
Let your child know that the journal is theirs to write whatever they want and it is not to be read by anybody other than them, unless they decide to share it with someone.
Another great option for helping your child heal from an emotionally abusive relationship is setting them up with a therapist. Whether it is group therapy or individual therapy, professionals tend to have a deeper understanding and can offer additional ways to help. At Children’s Bureau there are a number of mental health services that are available for children 0-21. As an organization that works towards child abuse prevention, Children’s Bureau offers a number of tools and resources to help your child overcome any emotional barrier in their lives.
With therapy, your child can gain the additional support they need outside of the home so that they can feel safe and secure when they rest their head every night.
Healing from Emotional Abuse As An Adult
Lastly, healing from emotional abuse as an adult is just as important as it is for a child. If you or someone you know has been a victim of emotional abuse at any point in life, the steps listed above can help you work through that trauma as well. In doing so, you will begin to heal from the emotional distress and break any generational abuse cycles that may unintentionally present themselves in future relationships or when you become a parent.
Help Is Here
Whether you decide to take the healing process into your own hands, set your child up with a professional, or a combination of the two, there is no better time to help your child heal from a toxic relationship than now. Additionally, acknowledging your own emotional abuse traumas and beginning to work through them yourself is equally as important when it comes to breaking any repetitive emotional abuse cycles in your family. The sooner your child feels the support they need, the sooner they can work through the trauma of emotional abuse and set themselves up for a healthy life.
Susan J. Wood, Former Director of Mental Health
Susan J. Wood, LMFT was the Director of Mental Health at Children’s Bureau and has over 20 years of experience working with children in a community mental health setting. She joined Children’s Bureau in 2015 as a Program Manager in the Antelope Valley and became the program director in June 2018 where she was instrumental in opening and expanding mental health services to the Santa Clarita Valley and Long Beach.