Talking to Children About Sexual Abuse
Tips for Parents
When we hear difficult news many children may feel upset, confused or frightened. In the case of sexual abuse children may be concerned about their safety as well as the safety of their friends and loved ones. Children look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Below are some tips to help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and creating an environment to talk with them.
- Reassure children that they are safe. Parents and teachers take many steps at home and school to keep children safe. Discuss some actions we take at home (e.g. lock doors at night, inform parents when you arrive at a friend’s house) and school (e.g., school rules, fire drills, classroom counseling lessons) and encourage children to tell an adult if they feel unsafe.
- Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a normal routine is comforting for both children and adults. Following your typical sleep, meal, school and activity schedule helps maintain our health.
- Talk with your child(ren). Be patient as children do not always talk about difficult topics easily. If you do decide to talk to your child(ren) please remember that a range of reactions/feelings is normal. A gentle, calm demeanor is necessary and reassure your child that they will not be in trouble or be punished for anything they tell you. Allow your child to write, draw or play as a way of expressing their feelings. Finally, keep conversation brief and encourage your child to let you or any other trusted adult know if they remember something later.