–by Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW, originally published on the author’s blog, September 14, 2017 “The problem with verbal abuse is there is no evidence,” Marta shared. She came for help with a long-standing depression. “What do you mean lack of evidence?” I asked her. “When people are physically or sexually abused it’s concrete and real. But verbal abuse is amorphous. I feel like if I told someone I was verbally abused, they’d think I was just complaining about being yelled at.” Marta explained. “It’s much more than that.” I validated. “Much more.” She said. “The problem is no one can see my scars.” She knew intuitively that her depression, anxiety and deep-seated insecurity were wounds that stemmed from the verbal abuse she endured. “I wish I was beaten,” Marta shared on more than one occasion. “I’d feel more legitimate.” Her statement was haunting and brought tears to my eyes. Verbal abuse is so much more than getting scolded. Marta told me that there were many reasons her mother’s tirades were traumatizing:
- The loud volume of her voice
- The shrill tone of her voice
- The dead look in her eyes
- The critical, disdainful and contemptuous facial expression that made Marta feel hated.
- The long duration—sometimes her mother yelled for hours.
- The names and insults, you’re spoiled, disgusting, and wretched.
- The unpredictability of that “flip of the switch” that turned her mother into someone else.
- And, perhaps worst of all, the abandonment.
- Know that children have very real emotional needs that need proper tending. In general, the more these needs are met, the easier it will be for the child to be resilient in the face of life’s challenges.
- Learning about core emotions will help you to help your child successfully manage emotions.
- You can affect your child’s self-esteem by being kind, compassionate and curious about their mind and world.
- When a break in the relationship occurs, as often happens during conflicts, try to repair the emotional connection with your child as soon as possible.
- You can help your child feel safe and secure by allowing them to separate from you and become their own person, welcoming them back with love and connection, even when you are angry or disappointed in their behaviors. You can calmly discuss your concerns and use opportunities as teachable moments.