By Lisa Aronson Fontes Ph.D.

“The court system acknowledged that my ex is a danger to me, an adult, by granting me a protective order. How can they then order my one-year-old—who is so young and helpless—to spend weekends with him, unsupervised?” – A protective mother, who was abused by her child’s father

Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are unable to protect themselves, flee, seek help, or describe their experiences adequately. At the same time, we know that traumatic and stressful events affect young brains and bodies. Stress hormones course through children who experience chronic fear, resulting in a permanent state of alertness. This early trauma changes them, even if they have no words yet to describe their experiences.

Such early adverse childhood experiences may affect children throughout their lives, showing up as bodily pain and illness, anxiety and depression. Children who are neglected or who are exposed to tension, yelling, and abuse, may become difficult to soothe and chronically “on edge.” They may have disturbed relationships for years—although therapy can help. People who suffer in their infancy may have difficulty with attachmentthey may struggle with becoming and staying close to others.

Domestic abusers put children at risk for harm. What can protective parents do to safeguard their children from the other parent, if that parent is abusive?

Continue to article via Psychology Today (Published April 28, 2023)