How Fathers Can Support Their Survivor Children

By Jenn Rockefeller

Each survivor’s healing journey is different and can pose its own set of difficulties. Only the individual knows what they have had to endure and struggle with in order to survive. As such, it is difficult for family and friends to know how to help.

Many times, though, fathers can struggle greatly with knowing just how to help their teenage or adult children through such a difficult time.

Listen
The most important thing for fathers to know in how to help is to listen to their children about what they endured. Even if Dad doesn’t quite know what to say, it’s important for the survivor to just talk it out. If they feel comfortable doing so, that is. Survivors just want to be heard and knowing someone is there to just listen to them can be especially supportive and helpful. In fact, listening is an integral part of a survivor’s healing journey. Survivors need to feel heard and knowing that others are there to listen can be a big help.

Encourage
In the beginning, it may be difficult for survivors to even put their experience into words. Fathers can simply encourage their child to talk about what happened and remind them that they are there and willing to listen. Sometimes, that’s all a survivor needs – to know that someone will be there. Encourage the child to also seek out additional support in the form of support groups or individual therapy. Also encourage the children to continue to foster relationships with their peers. Having solid friendships can aid in healing, too.

Empathize
Often times, it is difficult for fathers to relate to their daughters. It can be especially difficult when that daughter experiences domestic violence. It is essential for Dad to empathize with her and to put himself in her shoes. How would he react if he were her? What would he say and do? He needs to connect with her on an emotional level and let her know that he identifies with her emotions.

Collaborate
Fathers struggling with how to help their children through this experience can also collaborate with others going through the same thing. Find a local support group for parents. Doing so can give the dads extra support in knowing how to help their children. If there isn’t one in his area, maybe Dad can work on starting up a support group!

Learn
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about domestic violence. Fathers can be especially helpful to their children to learn about what domestic violence is and that it is never the victim’s/survivor’s fault. Survivors often feel blame for what happened. Fathers can learn that their children will express a wide array of emotions – fear, guilt, anger, loss, embarrassment, etc – and provide their children the environment to express those emotions safely.

Create
Survivors of domestic violence have a need to feel safe following their experience. Fathers can create an environment that will allow for their children to feel safe and secure. Having a solid daily routine can foster this feeling of safety. Create a routine that is predictable and structured. Doing so will ensure that the children will return to a more normal way of life.

Advocate
Another way fathers can help their children is advocating for stronger resources to help adolescents and teens who experience domestic violence. Host discussions with local schools and places of worship. Ensure that these facilities have a wealth of ways for the younger generation to reach out should the need arise.

Fathers often have a difficult time knowing how to help their children heal. That’s why it’s important for them to understand how domestic violence affects teens and adults who have experienced it and create an environment for their children to feel safe while they heal. This includes not insisting that their children talk about their experiences. Instead, take the cues from their children and let them open up when it’s most comfortable for them. Remember, let them talk. Often times, we listen with the intent to reply. What Dads need to keep in mind is to listen to their children. Really listen.

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