Walking Kids Through Aftermath of Domestic Violence

Emotion coaching helps parents help children deal with trauma of experience

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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 20, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A technique called emotion coaching can help parents help children surmount the effects of family violence, says a University of Washington study.

It found that when mothers in families where there is domestic violence use emotion coaching, their children are less aggressive, withdrawn and depressed. The role of fathers as emotion coaches was less clear. The study included 130 families. Forty-eight of the families reported low levels of domestic violence -- pushing, shoving or grabbing a spouse or partner -- during the previous year.

None of the families reported more severe forms of domestic violence, such as punching, kicking, biting, threatening, or use of a weapon.

"We know children experience high levels of stress when exposed to domestic violence. So this sets up a perfect place to intervene and help children. If we can develop an intervention for battered women and give them tools to coach their children it could help youngsters to be less depressed, less anxious and less withdrawn," study author Lynn Fansilber Katz, a research associate professor of psychology, said in a prepared statement.

To be successful emotion coaches, parents need to be aware of their own feelings and their children's emotions, Katz said. Parental emotion coaching can:

  • Help children recognize their own emotions.
  • Provide children with the words to express their feelings and to discuss their emotions with other people.
  • Help children learn how to calm themselves when they're upset.
  • Guide children in problem-solving so they can develop their own answers.

The intimacy of parental emotion coaching can also help create a strong parent-child relationship that makes children feel comfortable about discussing their fears and worries with their parents.

The study will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.

More information

The American Bar Association has more about the impact of domestic violence on children.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Oct. 14, 2004

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