It is very easy, as an adult, to yell at our children at times. Often parents/ caretakers are found very angry at their kids. But the point to ponder upon is that when does this scolding or yelling cross the line into emotional abuse?
When the adults constantly belittle a child and make her feel bad about something, this behaviour becomes an emotional abuse.
It is an ongoing emotional neglect or emotional maltreatment of a child. Emotional abuse is sometimes called as psychological abuse. It can seriously damage a child’s development and emotional health. Emotional abuse can involve continuously trying to isolate, ignore, scare or humiliate the child. Emotional abuse also includes threatening, calling names, being sarcastic to the child, shouting at child, blaming, not recognizing their efforts, controlling them excessively, not allowing them to have friends of their choice, not letting them do something they wish to do or making the child the subject of jokes. It could also involve exposing the child to some distressing events, emotionally neglecting the child or never expressing any positive feelings towards the child.
Types of Emotional abuse
Passive Emotional Abuse-
In passive emotional abuse a parent or caretaker denies the love or care their child needs in order to be happy, healthy and stable. It is equally damaging as Active Emotional Abuse, but it can be hard to be spotted. There are some categories of Passive emotional abuse as follows-
1. When the parent is emotionally unavailable to the child, and is not able to connect to the child or not giving enough love or care that the child deserves or wants.
2. Having low opinion or negative attitude about the child and not offering any praise or encouragement to the child.
3. Not having developmentally appropriate interaction with the child , expecting her to perform the tasks which are above his limits.
4. Failing to understand a child’s individual, emotional needs
5. Not encouraging the child to have friends or healthy social circle outside the home.
Active emotional abuse
This involves a planned intention to harm a child on emotional front. It involves deliberately scaring and verbally demeaning or abusing the child. It also involves rejecting, terrorizing, isolating, exploiting and ignoring the child.
Signs and symptoms of emotional abuse-There aren’t any specific physical symptoms or emotional neglect or abuse but we can spot some signs in ca child’s emotions or actions. Young children who are emotionally neglected or abused may show signs like-
• Lack of confidence
• Low self esteem
• Overly affectionate towards strangers
• Not appear to have a close connection with parents
• Unsocial behaviour towards other children or animals
• Talking or doing something which is not age appropriate
• Isolated or withdrawn most of the times or Clingy sometimes
• Eating or sleeping disorders
• Wets the bed or soils the clothes
• Obsessive behavior
• Self harm
Some other reasons for emotional neglect could involve where the family is under certain stress like- domestic abuse or violence, drug or alcohol addiction, relationship discords, family arguments or break ups, financial stress, moving away of some family member or transfer/ migration or language/ communication problems.
Treating an emotionally abused child-Once we spot the symptoms of emotional neglect or abuse, we can begin to protect the child and try to reduce the harmful effects of such incidents. We need to focus on child’s safety and security, Identification of the factors which are contributing to a child’s emotional abuse or neglect and then addressing to the environment and relationships that surround the child. After this, reducing the impact of such incidents on child’s mind and finally increasing the resilience to the effects of future neglect or abuse.
Play therapy seems to be the most effective on children with emotional neglect or abuse. Positive parenting workshop or therapy would help to make the parents aware and strengthen the parent- child relationship and also will keep the children safe from emotional distress.