Supporting children, young people and families
After domestic homicide, children and young people are confronted with a complex combination of trauma, loss, grief, guilt, shame, fear, isolation and hardship. Domestic homicide is often the result of years of domestic violence and has a profound impact on children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, resulting in complex and frequently negative outcomes across social, psychological, academic, and physical domains.
In this context, practitioners may need information in relation to aspects like:
- Under what circumstances did the child or young person find out about the domestic homicide? What aspects may have made it worse (e.g. level of exposure to the crime scene, distressing media coverage) and what emotional support was immediately available?
- Did the family have a previous history of domestic violence? Did the child receive any services before the homicide?
Also, practitioners face the challenging task of working out what support is necessary, when, who should give it and how:
- What opportunities do we have to learn whether the child or young person is currently going through personal or family difficulties?
- How do we help the child or young person regain and maintain a sense of self-esteem, safety, stability and trust?
- Who can be a stable and ongoing source of support for the child or young person (family member, counsellor, teacher)?
- What other types of support does the child or young person need (therapy, schools, social care, victim support services, friends, support groups)?
Families are also dealing with the loss of the victim and often do not feel equipped to take up the role of carer after the domestic homicide. They may experience economic hardship and need financial support to care for the child or young person.
Thus, caregivers can struggle to manage the child or young person’s needs and their own health while being emotionally available. Practitioners can assist by offering ongoing and long-term services that are tailored to the culture and languages of the families involved.
Conflicts between family members may emerge at different moments. This is a complex situation for any practitioner. While there are no universal solutions, practitioners can actively listen to children, young people, their caregivers, and trusted adults in a child or young person’s life, to help mediate conflicts before or when they arise.
Some potentially useful questions for practitioners are:
- What types of loss and other circumstances are affecting the family?
- How do we tailor our services to families with different languages and cultural backgrounds?
- How can we continue supporting caregivers and family members in the mid to long-term after domestic homicide?
- How can we manage conflict or tension when children, young people, caregivers and practitioners have differing views?