Most times mental abuse is counted for in adults, or has to be properly diagnosed by a professional for it to be considered abuse. Though the word “abuse” is thrown around to categorize any harm to ones’ physical, emotional, or mental state, it doesn’t just affect teens or adults.
Most people also immediately think child abuse is physical, because in most cases it is. Children with physical indications of abuse are more likely, then not, going through some kind of physical trauma. Even though it may be physical, it does translate into mental and emotional abuse as well.
Physical abuse is also more likely reported, since there is proof of abuse. So even if a child can’t say it themselves, authorities can take action on it since there is visible evidence. But a bigger point to take out of the situation is, if a child ever claims abuse in any form, BELIEVE THEM! Depending on their age, the younger they are the less they really understand. Their naiveness and innocence protects them from what adults may already know and comprehend.
A child who has a parent that physically abuses them see it as they are in the wrong for making their parent angry to the point of a physical altercation. However, from an outsiders perspective that abuse may have happened due to the child spilling a cup of water and the parent is already having a hard day. A child can’t comprehend the rights and wrong, and the reason of abuse.
So if a child claims their parent is hitting them, or even simply hurting them, it should be taken seriously. Obviously, a parent doesn’t want to have to hear their child telling another adult this no matter what the situation may be, but child abuse shouldn’t go unnoticed.
What I do want to bring to attention isn’t physical abuse, however. There is a greater culprit that can affect children far into adulthood. Mental and emotional abuse, or rather psychological abuse, goes unnoticed far too many times.
I would like to say it is the parents fault for this form of abuse. Overall, they should know better and should recognize what they are saying can be severely damaging. However, it is hard to blame the parent if their childhood was something similar? How could you blame a parent for how they raised their child if they were raised almost similarly?
Growing up my parents encouraged me to be free and do what I pleased within reason. However, there were rules and my brother and I just had to follow them. Honestly, this was a simple parenting strategy. They had ground rules, and depending on how we broke those rules determined the severity of the punishment. The biggest golden rule in the house was that we were to never be “beat” for doing something wrong, no matter how bad it may have been. But like many rules, it did get broken (but there was a good reason behind it, and I don’t blame it my parents).
When I was younger, I had a friend next door that had recently moved to the city. She was my age, and went to the same school and ended up having the same teacher as me. After school, my parents would encourage me to do my homework before I went to go play outside or play with my toys. This wasn’t hard, considering I was in kindergarten and the homework involved me coloring in shapes and writing the alphabet out 3 times to improve my handwriting.
My friend, however, was only allowed to play during the weekend. Once she got home and was able to finish her homework, her mother would force her to continue studying. I remember I walked next door and asked if my friend could come outside and play with me. Her mother said no, and then walked with me back to my house and told my mom that she would like to see me study with my friend. My mother saw nothing wrong with it, considering it was only one time, and said that would be fine as long as I was home for dinner.
I was excited to be able to spend time with my friend, even if it was to study, and that I get to hang out with her family too. It would be like having a sister, and since they were also Indian like I was it felt like I fit in.
My friend’s mother took me down to the basement where my friend was staring hard into a 1st grade book. She looked happy to see me, but got right back to doing her work again. “Okay so we are doing math today.” Said, her mom. At the age I was, I only really knew basic math, like 1+1 or 3+2, etc. I figured that was what we would be doing for a while before I could go home. However, her mother gave me my friend’s book and asked me what I knew from it.
I remember a huge anxious feeling coming over me, almost like an elephant sat on my chest. Nothing on the page made sense to me. There were no pictures explaining how many apples there were, and no colors that made the math more interesting. I could hardly read the word problems that were on the page. When I told her mom I didn’t know what the words meant, she looked to her daughter and told her to read the questions to me.
My friend got through the first question, but my comprehension wasn’t at that level and I had no way to answer the question. The mother looked upset at me, and asked my friend for the answer. She got it wrong.
I remember a second after that, my friend cried out and her mother had her hand raised above her. I was stunned. I didn’t understand why she hit her daughter for getting an answer wrong. She then looked at me and calmly told me to read the next question to my friend. I was scared, but read the question and got a few words wrong. She didn’t hit me at first, but tapped my head and told me to stop messing up.
After a while of going back and forth, my friend got hit multiple times and I got hit twice. But the hitting isn’t what got to me, it was the mother telling my friend, “if you stay dumb like this you will become nothing!” or “how do your teachers deal with you? You can’t even answer a simple question like this” or “I have a stupid daughter. And she will never know how to make me proud.” It was mortifying.
I told my mother about it, and she immediately refused to ever send me back there again, and also threatened the mother that she would report her if she didn’t stop. I asked my mom if she thought I was dumb, or if my teachers don’t like me. And I remember my mom telling me that she loves me no matter what, and that I was doing so good in school. She said if I had any questions while I studied, I could always ask her and she would be happy to help me.
Your child will succeed regardless of what you tell them. They have an idea for their future, and what they want is your support and encouragement. Doing what they love the most will make them wealthy, and in this day and age it really is the case. Doctors, lawyers, and engineers are no longer the wealthiest and that doesn’t make them the happiest either. If their passion takes them elsewhere allow it to happen, but always encourage a strong education.
There are other forms of psychological abuse too. Threatening your child with “I will disown you if you do this…” or “if you do this/that you are no longer welcome to be in this house!” is a form of abuse. Under no circumstance should a child feel that doing anything wrong means they will lose their home or shelter. At a young age, it is a horrifying thought to think that not cleaning up their toys means they will have to live outdoors with no food or water.
Granted it may seem extreme to think that way, but I have seen kids break down in fear of their parents following through with an empty threat of being homeless. You are messing with a child’s trust in you. It will mentally affect them for the rest of their life, because now small meaningless threats could be taken far more seriously than they should.
Also, sometimes no matter how much you may do to be a good parent, your child may need more help. Don’t discredit what a therapist can do! Overall there is a stigma to therapists, and parents get worried of how their child will be seen for having to go see a therapist for help. What is it a therapist can do that a parent cannot?
Don’t think that way! Therapists are trained professionals that will have a data bank full of tricks and tips that you may never think of that actually may help your child. Being able to move past trauma (that comes in MANY forms) is something a therapist is trained to do. This is coming from someone who didn’t believe in therapists for a long time as well. After having 3 sessions with my own therapist, I felt like I made the biggest strides in my life than I ever have.
Always encourage your child to talk to you, and if they can’t give them the option to speak to someone else that may be able to help. Helping them early can teach them the skills to tackle issues later in their life that they have learned through you or someone else. Support your child and communicate to them not AT them. There is a big difference.