Trauma that echoes into the future

Mar 4, 2022 | Appeal, News

“If children who have been exposed to domestic violence aren’t supported or able to acknowledge the impact it has had on them, they can grow up having never dealt with their trauma and experience and often go on to experience mental and social issues in their adult life, have high rates of suicide and some grow up to fall into their own violent relationships.” – Laura – KIDshine Advocate

That is why Shine’s KIDshine programme is so vital in not only supporting these children but also helping break the intergenerational cycle of domestic violence.

Research has shown that children who witness domestic violence towards their protective caregiver can have similar long-term health effects to children who are physically abused. Exposure to domestic violence has a negative impact on the emotional and mental wellbeing of children at any age. It’s vital that our tamariki are given the support they need, for themselves, and for future generations.

Many parents who are in violent relationships sadly do not realise the lasting impact it can have on their children. We hear things like “but they always leave the room when we start to fight” or “they don’t see the fighting, so won’t be affected by it”.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Children know. Even if they can’t see it – they can hear it, they can sense it. They also see the results…

The bruises, things broken, holes in the wall, their mum crying or becoming more frightened or vacant. The impacts are more far-reaching than many may realise.

How do children process or even understand what is going on at home? Many simply can’t. They will build in their own narrative and find their own ways to cope which will have negative effects on them emotionally, psychologically and developmentally.

Children feel powerless and their struggles can end up manifesting in a variety of ways.

Sometimes the impact is very visible – they demand attention, struggle in school, or lash out with violence and aggression.

On the other hand, some will become withdrawn, anxious, scared and mistrusting. Many become afraid to speak and develop hypersensitivity to everything. This is an exhausting way for a young person to live.

Many children will take blame onto themselves – “if I didn’t do this”, “if I wasn’t so loud”, “if I cleaned up”… a heavy burden for anyone to carry, never mind a child.

There is now a body of evidence and research to show that even while a baby grows in the womb, there is a negative impact when their mother is experiencing violence. If she is being beaten, always feeling stressed and scared, hyper-vigilant and constantly on edge this can significantly impact the fetal foetal brain and central nervous system development.

Our KIDshine programme has been designed specifically to support children who have been exposed to domestic violence.

“Without the support of kind-hearted people, we would not be able to give children who have been living in violent homes a chance for a better future. We are so grateful for the support that enables us to be out there every day, working to make an impacting difference to the lives of vulnerable young ones.” – Laura – KIDshine Advocate

It’s thanks to kind people who support Shine that we’ve been able to provide this vital service in our community. We can’t do what we do without the help of donations.



KIDshine works with children up to the age of 17 who have a protective parent receiving support from Shine’s adult advocacy programme. Self-referrals and external agency referrals are also accepted.

The programme gives children exposed to domestic violence a voice and helps them understand what is happening at home – that it isn’t normal, it’s not their fault and their feelings are valid. They are given the tools to heal, build resilience, gain confidence and move forward in their life.

Our advocates will initially meet with the protective parent to do an assessment on their child(ren) to understand what has been happening at home, how they feel it has been affecting their child(ren) and how they feel their relationship is going with them. The advocate will also take stock of any concerning behaviours or trauma. While our advocates keep in touch with the protective parent, the primary focus is on the child(ren).

Our team work one-on-one with the child but can also work with siblings together. Every child and every experience is different so the work is led by the children at a pace that they feel comfortable with.

Many questions are covered off about what is happening at home, how it makes them feel and what they do when things happen. The children are also encouraged to ask questions too so they know it is a two-way relationship and form a good level of trust.

Laura, one of our incredible KIDshine advocates shares:

“Many children express concern that the violence will happen again. Together we will put in place a safety plan so they feel confident about what they can do to keep themselves safe. Often the child has spent a lot of emotional energy trying not to upset their abusive parent. I help them understand what has been happening at home and know that they are not to blame for their parent’s behaviour.”

“Where there is friction between them and their protective parent due to that parent parent struggling or the abuser putting the protective parent down and chipping away at their relationship, I work to give both the protective parent and the child(ren) tools to be able to communicate openly, honestly and to help rebuild that relationship.”

“My goal is always to get the best outcomes for the children.”

Smiling boy sitting on swingThanks to KIDshine, we are seeing some encouraging and positive outcomes with children who have been exposed to domestic violence and we will see an ongoing benefit to both the children and our communities in the years to come.

The emergence of a domestic violence ‘shadow pandemic’ means there is not only an increase in the number of adults who need help getting free and safe from their abuser but there is also a flow-on increase in the number of children needing help to heal and rebuild their lives.

We need ongoing support to be able to give more children the vital help they need. Would you be able to contribute today to help ensure no child is left to struggle alone?

Here’s how your support can make such a precious difference:

“I used to talk down about myself and KIDshine has helped me be more positive about myself you know and have more confidence. Because we did the safety plan and I feel not as worried about Dad, now I can try to focus on myself…. I’m not used to doing that, but I am getting better.” – Child (anonymous)

“I talked to Mum more about things, like what we spoke about in these sessions. I feel more comfortable telling her things now. Also, she asks me more as well.” – Child (anonymous)

“I am glad Family Start referred us to you because it has helped the children so much. I wish more people knew about this.” – Caregiver (anonymous)

“Sessions have helped a lot with his behaviour. He does the strategies spoken about in sessions – his favourite is hand-breathing.” – Caregiver (anonymous)

“I have seen a big change. I feel she knows how to be safe now and she talks to me more. I’m not worried anymore.” – Caregiver (anonymous)

Will you stand up for and stand by a child today?

By helping save even just one child from living in domestic violence, you could make a powerful and lasting impact for future generations by helping to break the cycle.

Please partner with us today by making a donation using our secure donation page now.