As parents and caregivers, we will often come across children who show signs of either abuse and/or neglect. Remember, you can always do something. In todays article I share on some 5 steps that you can take should you ever find yourself worried about the safety of a child.
1. Take your gut feeling seriously.
If you are worried about a child, it is very important that you do something about it. Quite often we think that somebody else will notice the same thing we did, but this is not always the case. It is better that several people are concerned about a child, than not having anybody concerned at all.
Think about the traffic sign rule.
At the red light, we have children who need immediate help either from either the children’s department service in your county or any helping agencies that you may know of. If you are quite concerned about the situation in which the child finds himself/ herself, it is important that you take immediate action with the relevant agencies.
At the yellow light, we have children whom you are unsure of how they are doing and children you have a gut feeling about. You must take your gut feeling seriously and try to do something.
At the green light, we have children who are doing very well, and there are no concerns.
2. Affirm the child that you see them, with words and affection.
To be seen and affirmed by adults, means a lot for all children, especially for children who receive little attention at home. Whether you are well acquinted with the child or not, warm words and kind affection will mean the world to children
(Tips on how you can affirm a child with words).
- Say Hi, ask the child what their name is, ask open and interesting questions about everyday things.
- Say something nice about the child’s behaviour, hairstyle, or anything else that feels natural.
- Use the name of the child.
- Be interested about what the child is telling you.
- Show that you are happy to see the child again the next time you meet them.
- Follow up what you talked about the last time, showing that you care about the child and the conversation.
- Share something about yourself that will help the child to know you better.
3.Affirm the child that you see them, with actions.
Decide on what you can invite the child to. Being part of something fun and nice can mean so much for children who are facing difficulties at home. Choose situations that are natural to you and your family but do not overdo it( NB: Important to explain to your own children why you are inviting another child to your space, and explain to them why it is important to include the new child)
(Tips on 6 concrete things you can do for a child).
- Invite the child to ride home with you after school, or a sports event.
- Invite the child to family activities such as movies, or weekend outings
- Ask if the child is participating in any neighborhood activities, if not invite them if they want to.
- Ask if you can help with homework, making dinner or something else they can do after school.
- Find an activity you like and invite several children, or find a project where you can invite several people in your neighborhood.
4. If your gut feeling that something is wrong, is getting stronger, seek help.
Be a good listener. If your gut feeling keeps getting stronger as you get to interact the child, you should let the child know that it is safe for them to share with you what they are going through.
(Tips on what you can say to a child to help them open up to you).
- You do not look happy, is there anything making you sad?
- Is everything at home okay? You haven’t told me much about your parents
- You have been tired of late, is there something bothering you?
- I want you to know that you can tell me anything. I can handle what you will tell me eve when you think it is difficult.
- I want you to know that i care about you. I hope you know that i am here for you if you need anyone to talk to.
Remember, should the child open up to you, it is important that you listen to them without judging. Children often feel ashamed over their situation. They maybe worried that their parents will get into trouble, or they will be taken away from their parents. Do not say anything painful about their parents regardless of what the child shares with you. Show respect. Listen empathetically.
(Tips on what you can say to a child who shares about a difficult situation at home)
- I understand that this is difficult for you..
- I am glad that you shared this with me, you have me to share the burden with..
- You are a wonderful girl/ boy and none of this is your fault..
- I am sure your parents would wish to have done things differently, sometimes it is not easy to be an adult..
- Do you want your mom/ dad to get help?..
- What kind of help are you seeking?..
- Is it okay for me to talk to someone else about this?..
If you are unsure of what is the right thing to do, and need help to analyze the situation, it is wise to:
- Talk to someone you trust, a neighbor, or another parent .
- Talk to the school teachers, children’s department or other persons who know the child well enough.
5. Know that you are making a difference. Know that, remember that, and do it!
The best feeling anyone can experience, is that a child you are concerned about is doing okay! Most children, fortunately come from good homes, and perhaps this is also true for the child you were concerned about. It’s a good discovery! Finding out that there was nothing to be concerned about is gratifying – and your main task as an adult is not to be right, but to investigate further when you feel concerned about children.