Safety and self-care
- Safety planning is important for anyone experiencing domestic and family violence
- Conversations with teenagers about safety planning should make clear that it is not up to them to stop the violence
- As a person supporting a teen impacted by domestic and family violence, it is important to look after yourself as well
- This section also includes some self-care tips from a parent survivor of domestic violence.
Safety planning with your teenager
Teenagers should be able to discuss, plan and practice steps they can take to be safe in a home where there is violence and abuse. Support people like family and friends can help to develop and carry out a safety plan too. They can also offer a place to go or be ready to listen and offer support.
How can I work with my teenager on increasing their safety?
Explain that you would like to work together to come up with a safety plan to use in case of emergencies. Any conversations with a teenager about safety planning should make clear that it is not up to them to stop the violence or take on sole responsibility for the safety of the family.
A safety plan should include:
- Step by step actions your teenager can take to increase safety at home, outside the home or in situations such as contact visits
- When would it be important to leave and how they might know this – you may want to come up with a code word that you can say when they need to leave the home in case of an emergency
- The safe places they could go and how to get there
- Things to reduce the risk of harm, such as leaving early when things feel unsafe or not stepping in to stop the violence
- Contact details for three or more people they could turn to who would listen and take actions to assist them
- How and when to contact emergency services and other services that may be needed
- What to take when leaving, such as money, an escape bag, important items that may bring them comfort.
A safety plan should include the safe places they could go and how to get there, and contact details for three or more people they could turn to who would listen and take actions to assist them.
How can I help increase my teenager’s mental and emotional safety?
- Help them learn healthy ways of expressing and dealing with anger, fear and other emotions
- Help them get involved in things that boost their self-esteem and make them feel good about themselves
- Always act in a way that is non-threatening and non-violent
- Think about taking them to counselling or therapy if possible
- Keep as much structure and routine with them as you can
Self-care tips from a survivor
Helen is a survivor, a mother to two children and works as a freelance Workplace and Employment Advisor. Here she offers some self-care tips that she has found helpful in her recovery.
The relief and joy I felt when I escaped a violent relationship was short lived when I was very quickly thrust into co-parenting with my former abuser. The abuse is now carried through my children, who are trapped in the middle of two non-communicating parents. Self-care has therefore become critical and essential in assisting me to reduce the ongoing chaos and unpredictability, which creates stress and undermines my ability to parent, work or even function on a daily basis.
These tips have been useful in aiding my recovery. They are immediately and freely available and depend only on yourself. We all have the internal resources and varying degrees of ability to be able to put self-care into practice. I hope that those who do will reap the much deserved benefits.
As simple as it seems, just taking deep breaths really helps to keep me centred. I do this this often and regularly. A former yoga teacher used to say that you can change your life through your breath and I am now finding wisdom and truth in this simple exercise.
Moving the body helps to shift and lift some of my stress. I find myself in a better headspace after a brisk walk and mentally better prepared to cope with some of the madness in my life.
Creating a list of your own self affirmations can be very healing and serve as a powerful reminder that despite the odds I have survived. Some of my affirmations are that I am a survivor, compassionate, loving and resilient.
This does not come easy to me as my brain seems to be in a permanent fog, but getting it out on paper often feels helps in lightening the permanent weight of the burden I feel I carry.
Simply drinking water or herbal tea helps to reduce my tiredness, lifts my energy and makes me feel that I can achieve more.
Survivors who are forced to co-parent often say they feel like they are running hard just to stand still, as it often seems like such incredible hard work to survive. Making a daily list of things to do and ticking them off, no matter how small or insignificant the task, may provide a sense of achievement and control.
Thinking about and identifying the areas of your life where you now have regained control can be incredibly uplifting and empowering. For example I am now free to dress as I want, eat what I choose and make friends with all sorts of people. This feels wonderful!
Working towards my goals puts the pause button on the myriad of things completely out of my control and the feeling of frustration that comes with it.
Focusing on what you want to achieve beyond the day to day is a sign of recovery towards to better future. I find it restores my sense of wellbeing and happiness. Achieving goals, no matter how small can give you a sense of achievement and produce compounding positivity that can be beneficial for your children, your community and most importantly, YOU!
Get in touch with ReachOut, the most accessed online mental health service for young people and their parents in Australia.