Sudha Kudva is a director and partner of ABRI Integrated Mental Health. Through her experience as a mental health professional, Sudha understands that our childhood has a major developmental impact on our lives as adults. She has worked with individuals, couples, and families through complex and unique relationship dynamics. Some of these include issues stemming from childhood wounds (implicit or explicit), infidelity, and expatriation stress, to name a few.
What is the definition of child abuse and neglect?
First off, what is the definition of a child? The definition of a child is anyone who is younger than 18 years of age. In the USA, child abuse and child neglect are defined as at minimum, any recent act of failure to act on the part of a parent or a caregiver which results in death, serious physical, or emotional harm. It includes sexual abuse, exploitation, or an act of failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm. It’s complicated, but that’s the definition.
I’d like to simplify it for parents and caregivers. When a child is repeatedly made to feel worthless, unloved, alone or scared, they’re experiencing emotional abuse. Often, children have difficulty dealing with negative emotions because adults have the tendency to shift the responsibility onto them. Once we’ve pushed the responsibility to the child, we deny the child’s voice to be heard. So, what was traumatic for the child has now become an adverse life experience for the child. Abuse can come in simplistic, subtle forms, and we need to be aware of creating a space where children can speak up.
Child neglect represents acts of omission. It’s the failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs. Undoubtedly, child neglect causes low self-esteem by making it hard to perceive yourself accurately, and that doesn’t end when an emotionally neglected child grows up.
What are the signs of a dysfunctional family?
When parents label their kids, that’s a sign of a dysfunctional family. When we label a child without really understanding that behaviour is merely a symptom of an internal state, we’re refusing the opportunity to learn more about our children. In essence, you’re seeing the child through the label, and you’re not seeing the whole child. Furthermore, when cell phone usage dominates family time, it’s usually a telltale sign that something is wrong within the family. I mean, why doesn’t the child want to share? Or have intimacy with their parents? To be fair, I’m a parent too, and I acknowledge that I’ve made some mistakes. Ultimately, we want the best for our children.
To be fair, I’m a parent as well, and I acknowledge that I’ve made some mistakes. Instead of listening to the child, parents have the tendency to shut them down and go into advice giving mode. As parents, we tend to be overly protective of our children, without knowing that our actions are keeping the child from wanting to interact with us. Can you walk us through the stages of recovery for survivors of child abuse?
Thank you for your question. I have someone who’s having sessions provide their answer, I’m going to read it to you:
“In my own experience as someone who’s currently doing trauma work with a therapist. I think the first step to recovery is building back the person’s confidence. What does this entail? It entails one’s ability to trust in themselves, in their confidence, as well as their ability to deal with challenging situations and stressors. It’s about tackling unhelpful beliefs and the capacity to accept one’s own thoughts, feelings, and internal experiences fully.”
“Also, it’s about finding ways to soothe oneself when threatening sensations arise in one’s body. After that, once we have the ability to navigate in threatening situations, the person can start to process past instances of childhood abuse, which then allows recontextualising them, reprocessing them, and working with the inner child.”
“The first step to recovery is building back the person’s confidence. What does this entail? It entails one’s ability to trust in themselves, in their confidence, as well as their ability to deal with challenging situations and stressors. It’s about tackling unhelpful beliefs and the capacity to accept one’s own thoughts, feelings, and internal experiences fully.”