Although Mother’s Day is only celebrated once a year, being a mom is a full-time job. Under the best circumstances, parenting can be difficult, but when domestic violence is present in the home, there are additional layers of complexity. Five million children witness domestic violence each year in the United States, so it’s important to understand the impact abuse has on kids. While abuse affects each child differently, children are resilient and have the capacity to overcome adversity.

At Genesis, we know that a child’s health and safety is always mom’s top priority. Unfortunately, abusers know this as well, and often use this as a tool to hurt and manipulate their partners by exposing the children to violence, interfering with her parenting, or undermining her. Part of the most vital work Genesis does is healing and nurturing the mother/child bond, which has often been strained due to domestic violence in the home.

Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects a child to their primary caregiver – typically, the mother. Of the different types of attachment, our counselors work to restore secure attachment. Children with secure attachment feel protected by their caregivers, and know they can depend on them consistently, believing and trusting that their needs will be met.

Attachment trauma is common in homes where abuse is present, meaning that trauma is experienced within a child’s most significant relationships and has a profound impact on his ability to function. Our master-level counselors work on processing and repairing this trauma, which looks different for different families: attachment work might be done in a group setting or through a one-on-one session with the mother and child together.

By teaching moms effective therapeutic responses, we help remind her that she can be a safe place for her children. Through intentional activities with counselors available to guide and model behavior, we help create opportunities for mothers and their children to experience healthy experiences and interactions together, whether that’s positive physical touch, physical proximity, eye contact, or effective praise.

We know that the more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely he or she will be able to recover from trauma and thrive. This Mother’s Day, we celebrate and thank all moms, recognizing the demanding yet rewarding challenges of motherhood.

Written by Ruth Guerreiro, director of clinical & professional services