A guide for discussing abuse and violence with your children
When something happens to a young person in our community the children and youth in our lives may have questions about what happened or concerns about their own safety or the safety of others. As adults, we may wish to discuss aspects of an event to address particular issues, correct misinformation they may be exposed to, and help our children feel safe and protected.
Adults are responsible for children’s safety
Children should never be given the message that they are responsible for protecting themselves, nor should staff, educators, parents/caregivers expect children to protect themselves.
It is the responsibility of adults to protect children. There are laws that compel adults to report harm or suspicions of harm to the authorities.
As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to discuss abuse and violence with your children to help them understand what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. These conversations can be difficult and uncomfortable, but they are crucial for keeping your child safe.
Tips to discussing abuse & violence with children
It’s important to start talking about abuse and violence early, even with very young children. Use age-appropriate language and examples, and make sure your child knows they can come to you with any questions or concerns.
Use clear and simple language
When talking about abuse and violence, use clear and simple language that your child can understand. Avoid using technical terms or jargon that may confuse them.
Be honest and open
It’s important to be honest and open with your child about the realities of abuse and violence. Don’t sugar-coat the topic or try to shield them from the harsh realities. However, make sure you tailor your conversation to your child’s age and maturity level.
Explain the different types of abuse
Help your child understand that abuse can come in many forms, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Explain that it’s never okay for someone to hurt them or make them feel uncomfortable.
Teach them about boundaries
Teach your child about personal boundaries and how to recognize when someone is crossing them. Let them know that it’s okay to say no to someone who is making them uncomfortable, and that they can always come to you for help.
Talk about healthy relationships
Help your child understand what a healthy relationship looks like. Teach them about trust, respect, and communication, and emphasize the importance of mutual consent in all types of relationships.
Empower your child
Encourage your child to speak up if they ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Let them know that their feelings are valid, and that you will always be there to support and protect them.
Address your child’s fears
Talking about abuse and violence can be scary for children. Be prepared to address their fears and concerns, and offer reassurance that you are there to keep them safe.
Monitor their media intake
Monitor what your child is watching, reading, or listening to, and be aware of any messages about violence or abuse that they may be exposed to. Use these opportunities to have conversations with your child about what they are seeing or hearing.
Seek help if needed
If you or your child has experienced abuse or violence, seek help from a professional. There are many organizations and resources available to provide support and assistance to families in need.
Remember that discussing abuse and violence with your child is an ongoing conversation. It’s important to continue to have open and honest conversations with your child as they grow and develop, and to always be there to support and protect them.