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September/October 2016Vol. 17, No. 7Supporting Survivor Parents Affected by Domestic Violence

The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health published a guide for staff in domestic violence programs that offers guidance on engaging survivor parents in conversations about parenting and their children's needs. The guide provides suggestions for working with survivor parents to build their parenting strengths and capacities and, in turn, strengthen the nurturing relationship between the survivor parent and his or her child.

The framework for working with survivor parents presented in the guide is built on approaches that are relationship based, family centered, strengths oriented, and trauma informed. The guide focuses on six specific strategies to help professionals in supportive engagement with parents affected by domestic violence:

  • Use empathic inquiry to explore where the parent is emotionally at the moment.
  • Practice mindful awareness and self-regulation to retain a sense of composure and maintain presence and engagement with the parent.
  • "Be with" the parent: holding and containing strong feelings (e.g., offering a quiet presence, sitting with a parent, or listening without judgment).
  • Engage in collaborative exploration during which professionals and parents together work to understand both the parent's and child's needs.
  • Strengthen attunement and responsive parenting (e.g., giving specific feedback can help encourage and reinforce positive parent-child interactions).
  • Enhance capacity for reflective parenting to help parents step back and reflect on the needs of their children.

Throughout the guide, readers will find self-guided questions, reflection, and real-life examples to help professionals in their conversations with parents, as well as resources for building trauma-informed parent-child practices and an appendix offering suggestions and resources on emotional regulation and relaxation techniques for children and parents.

Guide for Engaging and Supporting Parents Affected by Domestic Violence: Enhancing Parenting Capacity and Strengthening Parent-Child Bonds, by Susan Blumenfeld, 2016, is available at

Related Item

The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides tools and immediate support to help people in abusive situations find safety. Callers can access The Hotline, which is confidential and free of cost, 24 hours a day and 7 days per week at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). For more information, visit