Can supportive adults help?
May 9, 2012 8:30 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for article/s pertaining to childhood and outside adult support from a dysfunctional family.

I know I have seen comments, but am looking for information on how adults outside the immediate family can help children survive and do better through rough childhoods. All I am finding right now are specifics about alcoholic families, and want something less about alcoholism and more about other dysfunctions. I know they often go together, but am looking for information for a friend who has a generational family history of abuse. It would probably help me too.
posted by annsunny to Human Relations (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Here are some basic ones (you'll mainly find basic information online because the details really do depend on each situation):
Violence in the Family - How to help
- Work with local child protective agencies to find resources to help children cope.
- Help children learn non-violent conflict resolution, anger control and other skills which will serve them well in their future relationship.

"There is much that can be done to help these children. As we educate ourselves about family violence and begin to develop the skills to work with the victims and perpetrators of violence, this oldest of human crimes will begin to disappear. The willingness to listen and to hear the cries of battered families is the first step. As long as we refuse to ask, battered women and their children will not talk about what's going on at home. Their shame is too deep, and they cannot trust that anyone will be able or willing to help. The solution to stopping violence in the family is up to each of us. When we understand this critical social issue, we will overcome our fear of working with battered families, and we will be able to reach out and draw them back into a sane and safe world."

It's important to get first-hand feedback from child protective agencies, like they say. There are a lot of things best learned in person.

I also found this child abuse prevention and treatment organization that's well-rated by Charity Navigator: Child help.

You'll notice that simply listening is often noted. It's not "simple" for the kids. One of the most painful aftereffects of an abusive childhood is the deeply-rooted belief that no one will take you seriously. They'll brush it off. Tell you that you could have done something differently. Say you probably brought on some of it. Mention that "family is family, you owe them". Tell you to let bygones be bygones; that everyone deserves a second chance. And this, to young children who have no choice but to return to their abusive families and deal with yet more blame, guilt and shame. (I grew up in an abusive family, and have cousins who were abused even worse. I know of what I speak.) Abused kids have very well-honed defenses in place; they don't need advice on how to deal with their families. They need healthy, empathetic examples of loving adults, thus that other point about helping kids learn constructive conflict resolution, anger control, etc. (One reason I survived my family is that I had healthy adult role models in the form of two healthy grandparents, friends' parents, and teachers. My cousins did not have such good luck, I was the only one sticking up for them through our childhoods, but was successfully painted as the muckraking black sheep by the rest of the family for it – my cousins are not doing well as adults... :( )

So, really, listen, and support them in their individual endeavors. An abused kid probably won't want anyone to confront their abuser; they mainly want to be heard and have their experiences validated, and they need to be appreciated for the unique person they are (highly unlikely they'll get this from their family in a healthy form). As for when to report abuse, that's where contacting a child protective agency can help. They'll be able to give you appropriate details for your area, as well as deeper insight into other questions.
posted by fraula at 1:59 AM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

A term for you: "fostering resilience". If you use this term on you'll be able to read research abstracts and, in some cases, full articles on fostering resilience in children who are going through hard times.
posted by mareli at 10:11 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

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