CHILDLINE ADVICE: Children should never have to suffer from emotional abuse

At Childline we talk to children and young people about all sorts of things going on in their lives, including about their schools, friends, family and their own mental health.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 10:13 am
A still from the Words Can Hurt campaign video.
A still from the Words Can Hurt campaign video.

One of the concerns we get a lot of contacts about is emotional abuse. It can be really damaging to a child when they hear a constant stream of negative comments, or are ignored by those who are supposed to care for them.

This is why we’ve launched our new campaign, called Words Can Hurt, so children know that if they’re subjected to emotional abuse they can and should ask for help – whether that’s from Childline or a trusted adult in their day-to-day life. With emotional abuse a child will talk about incidents, feelings, or the way they’re treated by someone. They’ll tell us about the names they’re called, how they are constantly belittled or embarrassed by those who are supposed to help and support them, or how they’re told they’re worthless and a waste of space.

One young person told us: “Whenever I get upset about anything, they make it seem like it’s all my fault. But when I try not to say anything and ignore them, they make me feel guilty and say I’m being ungrateful.

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“They compare me to my siblings and make rude comments about me, like about how often I wash. I really want to be somewhere else now, but I just don’t know what to do.”

Emotional abuse can be so damaging to children and young people because if they’re told damaging things often enough they start to believe it. It can cause developmental problems, speech difficulties or an inability to speak, or problems with maintaining a healthy weight.

It may also cause neurotic behaviours such as hair twisting or making repetitive sounds and actions, they may be unable to play, or feel extreme fear of making mistakes. In some cases, this can lead to self-harm and even suicidal thoughts.

Children should never have to suffer through living with emotional abuse, and at Childline we are

always here, over the phone or online, for any child than needs us. If you have worries about a child, you can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or [email protected] for advice and support.