Children and Young People (CYP) 

How does domestic abuse effect Children and Young People?

Whether involved directly or indirectly, children living with or experiencing domestic abuse or other forms of abuse are at risk of being hurt themselves and also developing emotional problems.

The effects it can have on children will be different in every case. These may include:

  • Fear and fright
  • Anxiety and worry
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Increased hyperactivity
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Hypervigilance
  • Mistrust
  • Increased anger/aggression
  • Withdrawal
  • Low self-worth, self-esteem and confidence
  • Self-harm
  • Depression and trauma-related symptoms.
  • Behavioural problems, including various relationships difficulties
  • Some Young People may experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Exposure to domestic violence has also been linked to poor school performance.
  • (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, n.d.)

Services CEA provides for Children and Young People

  • Play Therapy
  • Filial Therapy
  • Voice Advocacy Services
  • 1:1 Support Services

Play Therapy

Explanation For Children:
Going to play therapy can help me with my big feelings. My play therapist will visit me every week at school or nursery. She will bring lots of toys to play with. In the playroom, I can play, draw, paint or do something else. Play therapy is my time, and I can choose what to do. My play therapist will be there to understand how I’m feeling, or some of the things that have happened to me, without me having to talk about it or explain. It can be hard for kids to talk about things, it’s often much easier to play.

For Adults:
Play therapy supports children to explore their feelings and past experiences in creative and non-judgemental ways. Children can find it hard to talk about what’s going on for them. They often communicate how they are feeling through play.
During their play therapy sessions, children can choose from a range of materials such as sand trays, a dolls house, painting, and musical instruments. Their play therapist will be alongside them to help them understand what might be going on for them. Their play therapy session is at the same time each week, usually for 40 minutes. This can help them to build their confidence, self-esteem and start to heal after experiencing domestic abuse.

Find more information from Play Therapy UK:

Our Play Therapy service is funded by Delivering Equally Safe.

Filial Therapy

Filial Therapy is an evidence-based form of family therapy that helps heal and strengthen child – non-abusing parent relationship after domestic abuse. This unique therapeutic method involves a non -abusing parent directly as the agent of therapeutic change. Through this therapeutic process, children are supported to work through their conflicts, strong feelings, and difficulties. They learn to express their feelings in ways that enable them to form more positive relationships with family and friends. Their parent learns to understand their children and themselves better, this increases their self-awareness and compassion. They learn therapeutic parenting skills and approaches that are necessary for recovering from domestic abuse. Filial therapy requires some commitment and work from the parents, therefore it’s important that they have worked through their own issues and can focus on healing their relationship with their child(ren). The most suitable child age for Filial Therapy is 3-12 years old.

Families attend individual weekly Filial Therapy sessions for about 18 weeks with the number of Filial Therapy sessions agreed together. Therapists teach parents to guide special, non-directive play sessions with their children. The therapist then supervises the play sessions, providing feedback to parents, as they learn how to guide sessions, they gain competence and confidence in the benefits of Filial Therapy. Eventually parents guide the special play sessions at home.

To help children and their non-abusing parents/ carers in recovering and healing from trauma of domestic abuse, CEA successfully piloted Filial Therapy support in April 2019. The Pilot was funded by the BBC Children in Need Appeal. We have now secured funding to offer this service until April 2025. At CEA our experience means we know how much domestic abuse negatively impacts children and their non-abusing parents. How abuse leaves a long-lasting, at times devastating, effect on their relationships, family dynamics, parenting, children’s emotional and social development, behaviour and the list can go on and on.

Our Filial Therapy service is funded by BBC Children In Need. 

Voice Advocacy Services

The VOICE Children & Young Persons Advocacy Service supports individuals under the age of 18 years who are experiencing/ have experienced or witnessed domestic abuse or any other forms of abuse.

The eligibility criteria to access our Voice Advocacy service for Children & Young People who have witnessed or experienced abuse aged 5-16 years, who have one or more of the following experiences:

  • High Risk Domestic Abuse (Parental RIC 14+) or likely to escalate
  • CYP experiencing Abuse in their own intimate relationship
  • CYP injured / directly harmed through Domestic Abuse 
  • Court witness 
  • Contact disputes: direct and indirect difficulties around setting up / organising contact 
  • CYP going through the Children’s Hearing System
  • CYP risk of Honour Based Violence forced marriage
  • CYP at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation CYP with additional support needs such as:
  • CYP who are Looked After or Accommodated
  • CYP on Child Protection measures / Open to Social Work
  • CYP on Compulsory Supervision order
  • Physical Disability
  • Learning Difficulty
  • Any other additional support needs

Also for CYP16-18 years who are referred by Named Person Service and CYP who have:

  • A specific issue affecting their life and circumstances requiring health, social care or legal interventions in relation to Abuse experienced and witnessed at home or within their own relationship

How Can Our Advocacy Service Help?

  • Communicate with and advocate on behalf of Children & Young People using a range of communication methods, tools and in different settings
  • Support CYP to express views and opinions
  • Listening to Young People
  • Provide appropriate resources for CYP to express views and opinions which can be shared with parents, other professionals at court, meetings, hearings etc.
  • Support CYP to attend meetings with professionals
  • Ensuring CYP feel included in decisions made
  • Support CYP to understand the processes they are involved in and obtain information to make informed choices about what they want and need from professionals
  • Help CYP to sort out concerns and/or make a complaint
  • Ensure that those caring for CYP listen to what they have to say
  • Put CYP in touch with other people/agencies who can give them help and advice
  • Children and Young People will have the support they need to be safe, healthy and achieving their potential

Our Voice Advocacy service is funded by BBC Children In Need.

1:1 Support Services

One to One Support Service 4 to 18 years for all CYP who have experienced Domestic Abuse

All Children & Young People will have access to specialist 1-1 CYP needs-led, CYP-centred, age and stage appropriate support service where they will receive direct support regarding negative impact of domestic abuse.

The support will consist of weekly sessions and any necessary follow-up work. The main focus of the support is to explore CYP’s personal experiences of domestic abuse, violence and how it might have affected them individually and as a family. CYP will be supported around their own identified wellbeing needs. They’ll be supported to develop resilience, increased self-esteem and confidence, establish safe/ healthy coping strategies and an understanding of safe, healthy and positive relationships and to avoid sexual exploitation. Young people will be supported to manage big and difficult feeling which sometime demonstrate as anger but can be about feelings of helplessness, fear, hurt, confusion and exclusion. Confidence develops understanding how experiences have impacted on feelings and behaviour.

Where children are too young or can’t engage through talking, they will be internally referred to Play Therapy. Children, who due to their experiences and needs (for example, a younger child or a traumatised child who can’t engage through talking) require clinical treatment to heal from traumatic impact of domestic abuse.

Our One to One Support service is funded by Delivering Equally Safe.     

Parents & Professionals

CEA Children and Young People (CYP) Support Service offers holistic and integrated pathways of support through: one to one and group emotional support, Play and Filial Therapy, and advocacy support to CYP and their non-abusive family members to help CYP recover from their experiences of domestic abuse. Or focused work aims to improve safety, ensure CYP voices are heard and their rights respected with the help of professionally trained workers and emotional and clinical therapy interventions. Our interventions are timely and early, as we aim not operate a waiting list to access CEA CYP service.

Main Aims & Objectives

  • Maintain the safety of children and young people (and where appropriate their friends and families) affected by Domestic Abuse
  • Reduce risk for those CYP (and where appropriate their friends and families) affected by Domestic Abuse
  • Hold perpetrators to account for their actions by highlighting impact of their behaviour on children and families
  • Remain non-judgemental concerning people using our services
  • Empower people using our services and facilitate their decisions and life choices
  • Have the moral courage to challenge poor practice when it impacts adversely on CYP using our services
  • Support the emotional, mental and physical well-being of CYP using our services
  • Recognise that the CYP who use our service are individuals with a range of individual needs who seek individual solutions.

Service Outcomes

  • Children & Young People safety needs are met as a result of CEA CYP intervention 
  • Children and young people (CYP) who have been impacted by domestic abuse, violence report/show improved emotional, social and mental wellbeing. 
  • People have increased understanding of all forms of domestic abuse (causes, consequences and appropriate responses 
  • Service users are actively involved in an ongoing improvement of the service. 

The Safe & Together Approach   

CEA staff in Adults Stage 1 Team and CYP Team completed Core Training in the Safe & Together Approach in Nov 2017.

According to Humphreys and colleagues (2018, p:277) ‘the Safe and Together approach to child welfare provides a robust foundation upon which practitioners from statutory and non-statutory backgrounds can work collaboratively and reach consensus about how best to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children living with domestic family violence.’

Our initial paperwork was adapted in 2017 gather information about perpetrator patterns of abuse and coercive control and highlight the impact on children and family functioning. We support children and their non-abusive parent, regardless of gender. The model is based on three key principles: Keeping Children Safe & Together with their non-abusive parent, ensuring safety, healing from trauma, stability, and nurturance.
CEA supports and shares these principles.  

Safelives Children’s Insights Data (2015-17): 23% of CYP exposed to domestic violence are also demonstrating harmful behaviour themselves. In 61 % of these cases abuse is directed toward their mother. Our work takes a gendered approach to highlight these findings and statistics and support the mother and child relationship to recover from Domestic Abuse and reduce harmful and abusive behaviour.

We support CYP to develop coping strategies to deal with big and difficult feelings and to find healthier and more effective ways of expressing these. Our trauma informed approach also supports the gendered approach as we are educating CYP about how their experiences and influences have impacted on feelings and behaviour.

We are here to support you
Worried about a child or young person?
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Other Sources of help:

0800 11 11

Victim Support
0845 678830

Scottish Child Law Centre
0131 667 6333

Under 21s call for free from:
Landlines 0800 328 8970
Mobiles 0300 330 1421

LGBT Youth Scotland

LGBT Domestic Abuse Scotland
LGBT Youth Scotland