Pathways to Wellness

conversation • connection • commitment

Keeping kids safe from abuse

Child abuse – whether physical or sexual, neglect or witnessing violence in the home – is a form of toxic stress and can have life-long consequences on children’s health and well-being. Child abuse is 100% preventable.  What can parents and other caregivers do to keep children safe?

✓ Be a nurturing caregiver.  Be loving, positive and responsive.  Show children, in words and deeds, that they are loved and valued.

✓ Keep the lines of communication open – be an approachable parent.  Let your child know that there is no problem too big that you can’t solve together.

✓ Be cautious when you introduce new people into your family.  Make sure you have a chance to observe them with your child(ren) and confirm that they treat your children  with respect and maintain healthy boundaries.

✓ It’s easy to get overwhelmed with life, including the challenges of parenting.  Unless your child is at immediate risk of serious injury, it’s better to take a time out yourself until you can figure out how to respond  than  to over-react.   And, if you do over-react, admit it to your child and then spend time doing something you both enjoy.   In this way, you show how to take personal responsibility for behaviour  (no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes) and how and why it’s important to take steps to restore peace.

✓ Ask for help when you need it – every parent needs support and assistance during their parenting career.  Talk to another parent, a counselor, your community health nurse or doctor to help you gain perspective, and learn new ways to manage challenging situations.

✓ Most children are abused by someone in their family or a close friend of the family.  If you know or suspect someone of abusing a child, don’t take the chance of leaving your child alone with them.   If you choose, you can forgive an abuser – even someone who has abused you – without putting your child at risk.  However, someone who has abused in the past may still pose a risk to children.  Don’t let forgiveness or reconciliation distract you from the need to be vigilant and take steps to protect your child.

It’s difficult to parent if you haven’t been parented yourself, or if you’ve had poor parenting. There is no easy answer or quick fix, but some experts believe that the following is helpful

  • Face the pain, and acknowledge the ongoing influence your childhood has on you today.
  • Come to an understanding of why your caregivers behaved as they did.
  • Identify what to repeat and what not to repeat with your own children.
  • Gather all the resources you need to help you live out these choices.

Farrell Erickson (2006)

As a parent your first responsibility is the safety of your own children.  But you can also help other parents and other children.   One of the best things you can do is to relieve a parent who is feeling overwhelmed.   Offer to take their child(ren) for the afternoon or overnight. Help connect them with people who can help them sort out problems that are beyond your comfort level or knowledge.   You don’t have to have all the answers to be part of the solution.

Learn more