PARENTS SHOULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SCHOOL BREAK TO CHECK-IN WITH THEIR CHILDREN
BALTIMORE, MD (December 17, 2019)….The holidays are around the corner and for many children that means a break from books, tests and school projects. While the kids are at home, it’s advisable for parents and guardians to check-in to make sure all is well. Ask about school, friends, special interests, and peer pressure.
Behavioral and physical signs such as anxiety, depression, isolation and bruising may be indicative of a bigger problem and may require additional conversations to find the cause. However, some adverse experiences like bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse often leave no obvious signs. This is why checking in periodically with children is important.
The Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse offers the following guidelines to create a safe environment for your child and you to talk:
· Choose a space where the child is comfortable
· Be cognizant of your tone. Be casual and calm
· Use simple, clear language to ask about harmful experiences. For example, “has anyone hit or pushed you?” “Has anyone teased you?” “Has anyone touched your penis?”
· Listen without judgement and blame and be prepared to remain calm if you get an unexpected “yes” response.
· Follow up with questions and be direct. Again, be prepared to remain calm if you get unexpected information. For example, if someone you love or respect is the person causing the harm to your child.
· Be reassuring to the child. Clearly state that the child did the right thing by letting you now and that he or she is not in any way responsible for the harm. Reassure the child that you will stop the behavior from happening.
· Take concrete steps to address the harmful behavior and to prevent its recurrence.
“Should a parent uncover that their child is being harmed by an adult, steps to take can include calling the police and/or child protective services. If the harm occurred in an organizational setting or related activity (e.g., a school, club, sport, church) then we also recommend following up with senior administrative staff,” said Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health and director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse.
You can also reach out to the adult who is alleged to have perpetrated the harm but be prepared to stick by your child’s side.” If harm is being caused by another child (that is, someone under the age of 18), we recommend reaching out to that child’s family or to the institution where the harm occurred (e.g., the school principal). In some cases, it may also be appropriate to contact juvenile justice and/or child protective services. Seek follow-up care if the child is experiencing mental, behavioral, or physical health problems due to the trauma. Places include emergency departments (if immediate care is warranted), child advocacy centers, child’s pediatrician, school counselors, and mental health providers.