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Strategies for Parents and Caregivers to Support Children When They Speak Up About Abuse

June 06, 2022

To empower children in the community to come forward with disclosing abuse, Dee Norton is offering strategies for parents and caregivers to support their child(ren) both during a reveal of abuse or neglect and after.

According to the CDC, at least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year in the United States. This statistic is likely an underestimate as cases often go unreported and less than half of children will tell an adult or friend about their abuse. Though the first indicator of abuse is often when a child discloses, parents and caregivers may also notice changes in their child. If you notice changes in behavior or emotions, ask the child how they are doing—and listen. Let them know they can always come to you.

“As a parent or caregiver, you play an important role in protecting and caring for your children. Your support and connection can be the difference in them feeling comfortable to come to you with their concerns,” says Beverly Hutchison, the Executive Director of Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center. “We know having just one supportive adult is one of the biggest predictors of resilience among children. Adults being prepared to respond appropriately to a child who discloses abuse can be critically important.”

Dee Norton has compiled a list of advice on what parents and caregivers can do to support their children during a reveal of abuse and after.

Do:

  • Remain calm. Staying calm tells your child you can handle their emotions and that you are willing to hear and comprehend what the child is saying.
  • Allow the child to talk.  It takes courage and trust for a conversation about revealing abuse to happen, so acknowledge their experiences by giving them the time to speak with you.
  • Show interest and concern. Nodding of your head and responding when prompted lets the child know what they are saying matters.
  • Reassure and support the child’s feelings. If a child has been abused, feeling believed and supported by their caregiver is critical for both their protection and well-being
  • Take action. It could save a child’s life. If you have a concern about the safety and well-being of a child, Dee Norton is your place to turn.

Do not:

  • Panic or overreact. Remind yourself that because of your open conversations, the child came to you as a display of trust in your guidance, so show them you can manage what they are telling you.
  • Press the child to talk or overwhelm the child with questions. When the child finishes speaking, thank them for telling you. Contact Dee Norton to assist with next steps.
  • Promise anything you can’t control. Do not set or create expectations that may not be met. Instead, say you will do everything you can.
  • Confront the offender. Confrontation can be dangerous and interfere with the investigation.
  • Blame or minimize the child’s feelings. As uncomfortable as these conversations are to hear, they can be more uncomfortable to say. Acknowledge their experience and feelings and turn to the professionals to assist with next steps.

You have a safe, child-friendly place to turn to for help at the first moment of concern. Call us at (843) 723-3600.

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