What Parents Can do Today to Help Protect their Children from Abuse
March 29, 2022
Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center is the region’s leading resource to prevent abuse, protect children and heal families. Ahead of Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, Dee Norton is providing support and guidance for parents on how to speak with your children and establish a safe communication environment.
Child abuse occurs in all types of communities and relationships. Child abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional, as well as in the form of neglect or witnessing domestic violence. A good first step for preventing abuse is starting a conversation that is developmentally appropriate for the children in your life. This conversation may be awkward at first, but establishing open, calm communication is critical both to preventing abuse and creating a safe place to tell should abuse occur.
“There is no one sign or symptom that is the deciding factor in whether a child has been abused or is currently being abused. Often, the first indicator is when a child discloses abuse,” says Beverly Hutchison, Executive Director at Dee Norton. “At Dee Norton, we believe open conversations about our bodies, body boundaries, keeping secrets, and more helps to prevent abuse before it happens.”
Since there is no one sign or symptom to identify abuse, Dee Norton has compiled strategies for parents and caregivers to communicate with their children about abuse before it happens:
- Talk about body parts. Use correct names for body parts, and teach which parts are “private.”
- Set good boundaries and talk about them. Respect a child’s right to say “no” when they do not want to be touched, including giving hugs and kisses even to family members. Setting good boundaries applies to both in-person and online interactions.
- Discuss what to do if someone breaks the rules. Identify more than one adult a child could talk to.
- Communicate the importance of not keeping secrets. Talk to your child about the difference between a surprise and a secret and teach your child not to keep secrets from you.
- Model open, calm communication. We all get emotional or angry sometimes, but by modeling self-calming techniques, you can show that you are a safe person to talk to about difficult topics.
- Have these conversations early and often. Show your child that no topic is off-limits and that they will not get in trouble if they come to you with a concern.
While we hope to prevent abuse before it happens, we are here for when there is a concern about abuse. Learn how to report abuse at deenortoncenter.org/protect. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.