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Signs that Your Child is Being Emotionally Abused

Despite the lack of bruises and fractures, emotional abuse is a very real and very serious type of child abuse, and unfortunately, it occurs all the time in families. Even in families in which the parents want nothing but the best for their children, emotional and psychological harm can happen. Stress, lack of parenting skills, social isolation, and inappropriate expectations of their children can cause a parent to abuse their child unwittingly. Just because a parent does not know they are committing emotional abuse, however, does not mean that it is okay.

Split parenting is a difficult thing for parents to have to deal with, as there is no telling what is going on at the other parent’s house. While each parent must trust the other to always do what is right by his or her child, trust is all they can do. Unfortunately, children of broken homes are six to 33 times more likely – depending on each parent’s situation – to suffer more serious abuse than children whose biological parents are still married (The Child Abuse Crisis, The Disintegration of Marriage, Family, and the American Community).

With that in mind, it is more important than ever to keep an eye on your child as they come and go from your home to their other parent’s home. While physical abuse is easy to detect, emotional abuse is more difficult to spot. If you suspect that something is just not right at your child’s other parent’s home, this article should help you confirm or eliminate the possibility of emotional abuse.

Acts of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse of a child consists of persistent actions by the parent towards the child that corrode or erode their sense of being. Over time, these actions can interfere with a child’s psychological, emotional, cognitive, and social development. Actions that constitute as the emotional abuse of a child include:

  • Ignoring the child and/or refusing to call the child by name;
  • Rejecting the child by denying him or her their basic needs, ridiculing them, or refusing to touch them;
  • Isolating the child from the other parent, other children, other family members, and/or peers;
  • Exploiting or corrupting the child by encouraging or enforcing illegal or self-destructive behaviors;
  • Verbally assaulting the child, belittling the child, shaming the child, or threatening the child;
  • Terrorizing, or bullying, the child, thereby creating an environment of fear; or
  • Neglecting the child.

While the above actions do make up emotional abuse, if one should occur in isolation and on occasion (i.e. a parent momentarily loses his or her temper and says something hurtful), experts agree that it is not considered emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is not an isolated incident, and is characterized by any of the aforementioned behaviors on a consistent basis.

How to Spot Emotional Abuse

Because emotional abuse is not evident by visible scars or bruises, it can be difficult to tell whether or not your child’s other parent is emotionally abusing your child. Some telltale signs of emotional abuse manifest in numerous ways, including:

  • Insecurity;
  • Low self-esteem;
  • Self-destructive behaviors;
  • Acting out;
  • Withdrawal;
  • Poor development of basic skills;
  • Drug or alcohol abuse;
  • Inability to keep a job or stay in a relationship; and
  • Suicide.

Sadly, if a child is emotionally abused, they often unwittingly abuse their own children later on down the road, thereby creating a vicious cycle of neglect and cruelty.

Putting an End to Emotional Abuse

If you suspect that your child suffers from emotional abuse, you may have a difficult road ahead of you, but traveling it will be well worth it if it means protecting your child from further emotional damage. While contacting a Boca Raton family law attorney is the first step, the courts will ask a professional to identify present risk factors for emotional abuse, such as your child’s other parent’s family history and the immediate family’s present behaviors.

Should the courts determine that emotional abuse does exist, they will likely order the culpable parent to attend parenting classes and receive some sort of mental health services. The goal is not to isolate that parent from the child’s life, but to encourage them to create the safe, stable, and loving environment that their child needs and deserves.

Consult a Family Law Attorney

At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, our family law attorneys want only the best for you and your loved ones. If you suspect that your child is not receiving the proper care and attention that they deserve from his or her other parent, consult with one of our family law lawyers to learn more about how we can help you help your former spouse be a better parent. Contact us at 561.391.9943 or online to schedule your private consultation with our family law firm today.

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