The month of October is “domestic violence awareness” month, a time of year specifically designated to raise awareness concerning this horrific behavior that affects far too many families and which many of its victims are ashamed to discuss.
Unfortunately when the cycle of abuse begins early, affecting young children, breaking out of this pattern can be daunting – with abused children often becoming abusers as adults and seeking out controlling and abusive relationships. Domestic violence statistics provide that over 15 million children witness domestic violence each year. Further fatherhood absence, which may occur following a break-up or divorce, increases the likelihood that children will repeat this pattern or even seek out destructive relationships.
In fact, statistics show that having an absent father increases the likelihood of a young person becoming trapped in this cycle of abuse. In order to stop this destructive path it’s critical that dads and their support network understand the value they play in raising their children and the unique role they play in helping both boys and girls avoid becoming domestic violence statistics.
Organizations such as Illinois’ Fatherhood Educational Institute (www.fatherhood-edu.org) routinely work with young dads – many of whom were raised in fatherless homes – to educate them about the importance of being involved in their children’s lives.
Below are 3 significant ways fathers can help break the cycle of abuse
1. Be Present In Your Children’s Lives
All children need positive attention – such as encouraging words, praise or just spending the time together. Take time out to throw the football, go to a movie or just hang out. Study after study has shown that positive father involvement has a significant impact on how children feel about themselves, making them less likely to become victims of destructive or violent relationships.
2. Be A Role Model For Your Children
Children need strong role models to emulate, who can teach them to respect themselves and respect others around them. Being present and engaged with your children in a positive manner is a powerful weapon against the cycle of abuse. Further, if you are separated or divorced from your child’s mother, by keeping your interactions with her non-confrontational you can demonstrate to your children how to communicate effectively, even in difficult situations.
3. Show Your Children Positive Relationships
Children learn about relationships from watching those around them. When children witness adults treating each other with respect within their relationships, they learn that they should expect to be treated well too. Alternatively, studies show that children exposed to degrading relationships are more likely to be involved in violent or unhealthy relationships as an adult. As a result, the manner in which a father and mother interact – even if they are divorced – can significantly influence a child’s future relationships. By demonstrating how to interact positively, a dad can teach his children to respect others, and to demand respect in return.
Domestic abuse continues to plague many of our families, with children of divorce exposed to a far greater incidence of violence than in the past. With October upon us, now is a good time to underscore the pivotal role fathers can play in halting the cycle of domestic violence.