In Child Protection Week, give children the skills to stay safe

Written byChristine Tondorf
Published on04 Sep, 2022
Mother Sitting With Daughter, Holding Her Hands, Talking To Her And Teaching Her Something

RELEASED September 4, 2022

It’s Child Protection Week (September 5-11), and a North Coast team of family support workers say now is the time for parents to talk to their children about safety.

Social Futures Family Connect and Support manager Fiona Halligan says explaining to children that they are entitled to feel safe helps protect them against potentially dangerous situations, such as sexual abuse.

(Social Futures runs a number programs supporting families and children who are at risk of developing mental health problems, including the Mijung Jarjums Kids in Mind program and Elements  and also Family Connect and Support.)

Ms Halligan says it’s important for parents to help children identify adults they can trust – both in and outside of the family.

“Children need to know who they can go to if they are worried, upset, or feel unsafe. Make a list together and tell the adults they are on your children’s trust list,” she said.

“Remind children that they can talk to you or their ‘trust adults’ about anything, big or small that might worry them.

“Talk to children about how to identify feelings of impending risk, for example what are the physical early warning signs, such a sense of unease or discomfort around some people or in certain situations. They should be encouraged to trust their feelings and instincts and speak to a ‘trust adult’.”

Ms Halligan says you can have conversations about safety with your children when doing everyday things like preparing meals, driving or walking the dog.

She also said it was important to speak to children about consent and inappropriate touching.

“It’s never too early to start talking to child about consent and that they are the ones in charge of their body – they have the right to say no to unwanted touching, which can include kissing, hugging and tickling,” she said.

“Also teach your children the words to identify their feelings such as anger, joy, frustration, fear and anxiety.

“You will empower your child by helping them to develop a ‘feelings vocabulary’ and let them know you will try to respond sensitively to all their emotions including anger, embarrassment, sadness and fear.

“And avoid rushing into problem-solving or ‘fixing’ your child’s negative feelings. Your child might just want you to listen, and to know that their feelings and point of view matter.”

Ms Halligan said many parents feel uncomfortable or awkward having conversation around safety with their children.

“I want to remind parents that speaking regularly to children about their safety and teaching them to trust their instincts is a way of protecting children from harm and that is what every parent wants.”