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What Helps Children and Young People Impacted by Domestic Abuse?

Universal support:

  • Create a safe, trusting environment where children feel they can share their worries and ask for help.
  • Use whole setting approaches to supporting children with their social and emotional development, targeting for additional support as appropriate.
  • Model how to resolve disagreements and conflicts so that children can see an alternative their family’s pattern of behaviour.
  • Develop a whole setting curriculum from the earliest age that explicitly challenges gender stereotypes and promotes positive, healthy relationships.

Where children have experienced, or are experiencing, domestic abuse:

All ages

  • Make links with outside agencies, including refuges.
  • Work in partnership with the parent who has been abused.
  • If you get an alert from police, ensure that meet and greet child(ren).
  • Plan how you, as a team,  will respond to behaviours that are displayed.
  • If a child has newly arrived at the setting, identify a buddy for them or a key adult.
  • Provide 1:1 support from a school counsellor or designated pastoral staff if there is capacity.

Children up to 5

  • Use transitional objects, such as a blanket, between home and setting.
  • Co-regulation – name feelings, use nursery rhymes, music and stories.
  • Use different senses.
  • What can you feel – wrap in blanket, rock.
  • What can you smell – mum’s hankie.
  • What can you taste – use particular foods to help regulate.
  • Support play so can nurture and help feel connected; observe the type of play they are engaged in.

5 - 11 year olds

  • Undertake ‘safety planning’ with the child: identify who will pick them up, what they will do if scared.
  • Provide opportunities for children to play in different ways so that can begin to enjoy things again.
  • Provide a safe space for children to do their homework.
  • Create a physical safe space.
  • Provide additional support for learning as they may feel too stressed to be able to do what previously had been able to do.
  • Ensure that child knows you are available for them.

12 and over

  • Use writing.
  • Use humour/comedy.
  • Use music.
  • Scale1-10 on a daily basis so can identify how they are feeling (watch out for self-harm).
  • Use distraction or delay to reduce impulses.
  • Note use of language e.g. ‘I can’t deal with this.’

What we do know is that it is essential to help children to reforge their relationship with their mother, as it may well have been impacted during the abuse. This is critical for children and mothers in their recovery (Humphreys et al, 2006)


The Hideout

Women’s Aid have created this page for young people and the adults who support them:

Operation Encompass

‘Operation Encompass ensures there is a simple phone call or notification, to a trained member of school staff, before a child arrives in school. The call or notification is triggered by police recently attending the child’s home or being involved in a domestic abuse incident, that the child has experienced.’

The OE Website has some really helpful resources:

Mentally Healthy Schools

Useful Worksheets:

"I need you to..." Stepping into the shoes of a young person who has experienced trauma, loss & change:

Compensate for my Brain State - Dr Bruce Perry’s Arousal Continuum:

6 Steps of Trauma-Sensitive Connection:

Supporting the Return to School with Hobfoll’s Five Principles of Recovery:

The Learning Triangle: A Model of Attachment & Learning by Heather Geddes:

“What if?” Using a trauma-informed lens to reframe behaviour:

The Trauma-informed Classroom - Providing a Safe Base:

Treating Trauma with Hope and Optimism:

Applying the 4 Rs of Trauma-Informed approaches in the return to school:


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