Let’s talk: Children and Safety
Children have the right to be safe, and feel safe, always. It is important that we take their concerns seriously and address them appropriately. Feeling respected and listened to can support children to feel confident bringing their worries – of any size – to you. National Child Protection Week (3-9 September in 2023) provides a great opportunity to start conversations between children and families about feeling safe.
We all know that children can ask some tricky questions. No doubt we’ve all been caught off-guard and had to think quickly to find the answer to a big question! Safety is an important theme to proactively introduce into discussions with your child. So, how do we address this in a meaningful way?
Remind your child that they can talk to you about anything that worries them
Encourage them to always come to you with any concerns, whether it be big or small. Remember – what is small to adults can be very big to a child. This helps to build trust and sets the path for open and honest conversations. It allows a child to feel they have a safe place to share their worries.
Ask your child to identify trusted adults they can turn to if they feel upset or worried
Making a list of trusted people is valuable in opening a conversation about unsafe situations, and who your child can always rely on. Make sure these adults know they are on your child’s list. These people may come from both within, and outside of, your family.
Talk to your child about how they can tell when they are feeling safe or unsafe
Help your child identify their emotions – when they’re feeling safe, they feel happy and calm, versus feeling unsafe, when they’re upset and nervous. Ask them how their body might feel when they’re worried – such as having butterflies in their tummy, or, they say their heart beats very fast. Support them to trust their own feelings and instincts, and to share these feelings with one of their trusted adults.
Use daily activities as an opportunity to start these conversations
Invite your child to help prepare a meal, play together, or go on a walk. This provides a good opening to discuss safety awareness in an informal way, without your child feeling pressured. It may work so well that you incorporate it into your weekly routine. If your child is used to chatting with you regularly, it may be easier for them to be open when difficult issues arise. You could pose hypothetical questions around safety, such as “What would you do if….” or “Who would you speak to if…” and support them with their answers.
Talk about a range of different feelings – happiness, sadness, fear, excitement, and anger.
The more we can support a child to develop a vocabulary of feelings, the easier it will be for them to identify what they are feeling in a situation. When you child understands why they are feeling a certain way, they can learn how to best respond to those emotions.
Talking about safety with your child is an ongoing process. Research shows that children who consistently learn safety messages are likely to have more confidence responding to unsafe situations, and to speak up if something worries them.
Speaking to your child about their safety is a powerful way to build open and trusted lines of communication. And remember, children are safest when they are listened to, respected and believed!
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