. . . . . How to Respond When a Child Discloses
Process your own feelings and seek support. As you learn about the child’s experiences, it is important to share your feelings with other adults or professionals who can help you to cope.
Believe the child. Trust the child even when it is hard or difficult to believe. False accusations are highly unlikely. Take their disclosure seriously.
Talk Openly. Show the child that you are willing to listen and talk about their experience openly, rather than avoiding the topic. However, you need not draw out details or engage in extensive conversations, let the child set the pace, and do not correct the child’s language. Use active listening. Listening quietly and using simple, encouraging remarks (such as “ I understand or how did you feel when that happened?”), repeating back what you heard, and using positive body language and good eye contact. Respond in a calm, clear tone of voice. Provide comfort, but do not make promises that are unrealistic, as much as you may want to (such as “ nothing bad will ever happen again” ) Create a safe supportive space. If the child begins to talk about traumatic experiences, encourage the child to share their thoughts and feelings and be prepared for some questions that you may not be able to answer immediately. It is fine to say “That is a very good question; I’m going to have to think (or get some information) about that before I answer it ” Recognise the child’s difficulty. Acknowledge the child ’ s efforts to talk with you about the abuse (e.g., “ I’m really glad that you’re talking to me about what happened. I’m proud of you, because this must have been very difficult for you to do”) Provide constructive feedback. After praising the child for their courage and effort, when possible, provide constructive feedback if what the child shares reveals misconceptions or lack of information (e.g., “ A lot of kids think what happened is their fault. But you know what? It’s always the adult’s fault”)
Report Immediately. See page 16 on How to Report Suspected Sexual Abuse.
Adapted from: protectchildren.ca; parentsprotect.co.uk
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