Warning Signs of Emotional Child Abuse That Must Be Reported During Divorce

As you battle for child custody during divorce, it is important to report to the court any concerns you have about the other parent. This is especially true if you have seen your child exhibit warning signs that abuse has happened during your marriage. Chances are, you have sought help from a family lawyer in Fairfax, VA as the divorce proceeds. You must let your attorney know about your worries so an investigation can be performed and your child is protected from further harm. Here we explain in further depth the signs and ramifications of a child suffering from emotional abuse by a parent: 

The Invisible Wound
When bruises, scars, and other wounds are inflicted, they are easily seen on the skin. However, wounds of the emotional kind don’t show through to the surface in the same way, but can still result in lasting damage to a child’s well being and mental health. A child that is being abused emotionally may not end up at the doctor or emergency room with a broken bone or serious injury, but the effects will still be felt. Sadly, due to the sensitive and hidden nature of emotional abuse, it likely occurs in more homes across America than people realize.

How To Identify Emotional Abuse

When a child exhibits inappropriate behavior for their age, whether it is too mature or immature, can be a strong indicator of emotional abuse. If a child has sudden drastic change in their behavior, that can also be a red flag that mental mistreatment is occurring. For instance, a child may waver between being aloof and independent in some moments, and then compulsively and urgently seeking attention at other times. Examples of potential warning signs that a child is suffering from emotional abuse include: 

  • A sudden decline in school performance/grades
  • Desperately wanting affection from other adults besides their parent(s)
  • Regressing developmentally, such as peeing the bed at night when they had previously already mastered control of their bowels
  • Complaining about tummy aches, headaches, or other somatic problems that don’t have a cause
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Very low self esteem
  • Delayed development of emotions
  • A desire to (or actually inflicting) harm oneself or others intentionally
  • Losing interest in hobbies and social activities
  • Trying to avoid certain environments, such as visiting a friend or engaging in an activity

Keep in mind that asking your child straightforward about the abuse may not lead to them revealing what is actually happening. Oftentimes, they are too afraid to say anything out of fear that the abuse will get worse or they won’t be believed. Parents who see signs of emotional abuse in their child must not disregard or shrug off these symptoms as not serious.

If actions aren’t taken to protect a child from emotional harm inflicted by the other parent, then they may continue to endure mistreatment for many years to come. If the court isn’t aware of the abuse, then they may grant a level of custody and visitation rights to the other parent that allow him or her to continue causing harm. 

Thanks to May Law, LLP for their insight into family law and emotional child abuse.