In a perfect world, all children would grow up in a loving and nourishing home, where they would feel safe and could flourish into productive members of society. Unfortunately, this world is flawed and many innocent children face the tragedy of being raised in an abusive environment.   This devastating truth is why we should inform ourselves on the signs and warnings of mental child abuse. By being aware of this issue and its signs, we can better protect the children in our lives.  

What Is Mental Child Abuse?

Child abuse is not limited to physical abuse; it can take on many forms, including mental abuse. Mental child abuse is actions that result in the hindering of a child’s self-esteem, sense of worth, and emotional and social development.  These behaviors include neglect, embarrassment, criticism, and being unaffectionate. Abusers are usually excessively controlling and manipulative. In addition, abusers degrade, discredit and shame the child, purposefully lowering their sense of worth. Emotional abuse in children can easily go unnoticed because this type of abuse usually takes place in the privacy of the home; for this reason, The Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo and Starr Counties implores families to be aware of signs of mental child abuse. 

How To Tell if a Child Is Being Mentally Abused

If you have kids or have clear memories of your childhood, you know how unpredictable their feelings can be. Children are prone to cycle through a rollercoaster of emotions every day, but some of these emotions may signify something more.  Behaviors that indicate signs of emotional abuse may include the following: 

  • A sudden shift in school performance and behavior.
  • Unexpected struggle with focusing and learning, excluding those who have been diagnosed by a doctor with learning deficits.
  • Descent in grades.
  • Obstruction in emotional development. 
  • Passionately pursuing affection from adults. 
  • Constantly aware of surroundings as if something bad might happen.
  • Feels unworthy and loss of confidence. 
  • Acting confrontational with peers or secludes themselves from friends. 
  • Noticeable difference in weight and appearance. 
  • Loses control of emotions, frequent outbursts. 
  • Suicidal ideation or attempts, especially in pre-teens and teenagers. 
  • Self-harm, for example, cutting and burning themselves. 
  • Anxiety. 
  • Depression.
  • Avoiding social gatherings or events. 
  • Abruptly unconcerned with extracurricular activities they once had an interest in. 
  • Unexplainable headaches or stomach aches. 
  • Retrogression in developmental behavior, such as wetting the bed. 

What To Do if You Suspect a Child Is Being Abused?

Unfortunately, child abuse has aggressively affected our communities in the Rio Grande Valley. No child should have to suffer, feel unworthy, unsupported, or unloved. The heartbreaking reality is there is a chance you may know a child who is being abused, but hopefully, informing ourselves can help them.  If you suspect a child you know is being abused, it is imperative you report it to your local authorities or contact the Child Protective Services hotline at 1-800-252-5400, which is toll-free and open 24/7.

Children’s Advocacy Center Wish to Keep Children Safe

Since 2001, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo and Starr Counties has passionately assisted children from difficult backgrounds. We encourage everyone to learn about the turmoil of child abuse and advise you in being able to identify the signs and warnings of child abuse.