Article: Tell Your Children the Truth

Author: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Source: Online, (Retrieved 12/22/2009)

Summary: Should you tell your child about domestic abuse that occurred in your family or just move on with your life? What are the repercussions for not talking to your child about domestic abuse that occurred in the home?

“Most victims attempt to present to their children a “balanced” picture of the relationship and of the abusive spouse. In a vain attempt to avoid the notorious (and controversial) Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), they do not besmirch the abusive parent and, on the contrary, encourage the semblance of a normal, functional, liaison. This is the wrong approach. Not only is it counterproductive – it sometimes proves outright dangerous…” — Dr. Vaknin

According to Dr. Vaknin, children have a right to know the truth about abuse in the family, and to know the relationship/marriage between the parents is over. Children will tend to blame themselves for the break-up of their parents. Discussing the issues honestly, and in a straight forward manner will not only relieve some of the child’s guilt and anxiety but also help in the healing process.

Dr. Vaknin warns that when talking to children, avoid blame or bad mouthing the other parent. It is important that the parent teach the child appropriate behaviors, and how to develop healthy boundaries. The best example is the one a parents models for a child. Dr. Vaknin recommends explaining what abuse is and that abusive or hurtful behavior is not okay. “Teach your children to avoid your paranoid ex and to report to you immediately any contact he has made with them. Abusive bullies often strike where it hurts most – at one’s kids. Explain the danger without being unduly alarming. Make a distinction between adults they can trust – and your abusive former spouse, whom they should avoid.”  He goes on to elaborate that children should be taught to identify warning signs of abuse, and how to be assertive so they can vocalize their needs, and get help if necessary.

Dr. Vaknin also discusses the abuser’s personality and their parenting style (ie: treating the child as an object, incest, and different types of conflict). He offers a lot of experience and insight on this topic, which is not comforting but may answer some questions for the victim, and will educate others on abuse. This site also offers alot of articles and information.

 Finally. Dr. Vaknin offers some advise for victims to survive their abuser and ongoing methods of abuse and/or intimidation ( His advise is to ignore the abuser but also to follow the guidelines set by the court, if there is any court involvement.

Do NOT contravene the decisions of the system. Work from the inside to change judgments, evaluations, or rulings – but NEVER rebel against them or ignore them. You will only turn the system against you and your interests..” There is about 15-20 suggestions which may be helpful, including not to react blindly when triggered by your abuser–think things through before acting. You may be walking into a trap, by which your abuser will manipulate, humiliate or further undermine you by causing you to react out of emotion.

I really like what Dr. Vaknin has to offer, he is very thorough and clearly is very experienced. The article is a bit lengthy, and tend to drift away from the initial subject. But it is worth a look, and has a lot to offer.


What really hit home about Tell Your Children the Truth is that Family Court personnel advised just the opposite–I was told not to talk about abuse, I was told I could not “prove” it happened and I was criticized for efforts to seek help for myself.

Dr. Vankin is right when he says this is dangerous for the children. I have seen my children suffer tremendously and my son is now modeling abusive behavior. To lie is to enable the abuser–it does not resolve problems, and encourages further violence.

It does not make me feel better to read articles like this. What does help is having the information, and knowing that I am not crazy or making this up…my concerns are valid. And sometimes that bit of information will give the strength needed to keep fighting for justice, and to keep fighting for my children.

E.J. Perth, 2009

Thank-You, Dr, Vaknin for posting your articles online, and offering your advise and thoughts to us all!

An Angel for all the little ones…