There has never been a more pressing time to proactively re-assess how we can change stats such as one woman a week being murdered by her current or former partner. We know that reducing cases of domestic violence can drastically reduce homicides, violence, suicide, self-inflicted injuries, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and more.
But with people who, as children, witnessed partner violence against their parents becoming two to four times more likely to experience partner violence themselves as adults, we need to ensure a holistic and thoroughly contextualised view of the issue is considered. We cannot risk replacing parts of this cyclical societal problem with simply different and newer problems.
This approach has to include solutions that stop overlooking young people as “silent victims” of family violence, as was uncovered in the recent Family Violence Implementation Monitor’s fourth report. Instead, we need to proactively introduce early intervention methods to keep children safe.
Emotional Intelligence can be taught and learned
One of the most effective ways educators, parents, and community leaders can support children is through focusing on Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which involves harnessing a set of skills that enables one to monitor their own and others’ emotions, as well as the ability to use emotions to guide one’s thinking and actions.
With EQ, children can learn ways to develop self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation. For those who have been victims of domestic violence, these skills can help them take tangible steps towards building their self-confidence and sense of identity and belonging, which in turn will reduce their chances of becoming a victim in adulthood or a perpetrator themselves.
Furthermore, EQ skills can have a domino effect on other aspects of a child’s life, including increasing their school grades, academic performance, and social skills, which open doors for children once they become adults to take greater control of their futures.
Educators need to be available and proactive
It is critical for educators to recognise that, whether it is intentional or not, you are already playing a role in the evolution of many of your students’ EQ. Recent research shows that among children under-ten who cannot calm themselves after becoming upset at school, 42 per cent get help from a teacher. At the same time, teachers cannot expect children to always proactively come to staff members when they need help – the same research found only 3 per cent of students over 11 identified teachers as a source of support, 39 per cent “mostly want to be alone”, and 20 per cent simply “get angry”.
As well as being available for students when they recognise they need help in managing their emotions, teachers need to also feel empowered and comfortable with taking proactive steps to ensuring students get the support they need. And you don’t have to do it alone. Organisations like Zen Tea Lounge Foundation run emotional intelligence workshops for parents and their children throughout the year, children’s shows like Bluey are helping educate children about the experiences and processes of learning emotional intelligence, and more children’s books are available these days purposely with the goal of educating young readers about emotion management and regulation.
As we reflect on how our governments, communities, and we as a society can help minimise domestic and violence for child victims, be sure to recognise and act upon ways to improve the emotional intelligence of our children. The impacts will be multi-faceted, and the opportunities to start right now are all around us, from our homes and playgrounds, to our childcare centres and classrooms.