Recognising the Signs of an Unsafe Relationship

If your child is acting differently and is showing signs of unusual behaviour e.g.

  • sleep disturbances / scared to go to bed
  • upset
  • withdrawn
  • secretive
  • disruptive behaviour
  • not want to be in some people’s company / fear of places
  • physically covering/hiding parts/whole body
  • unexplained marks or soreness
  • toilet habits
  • acting out sexual activity or being curious about certain sexual matters.

Talk to them and reassure them that you are there for them and they won’t get into trouble if someone has done something they aren’t comfortable with, they have that “uh-oh” feeling, or if they have been asked to keep a secret or someone has threatened them or their family if they tell.

Here are a few things you could talk to your child about

  • Reassure your child that they will not be punished if they say they feel unsafe or threatened in anyway by any person (including family members).
  • Reassure your child that the truth will always be believed - encourage your child to tell you if anything is making them feel uncomfortable, confused or scared (children rarely lie about abuse).
  • Explain to them that their body is their own and about the areas that are private and should be covered (swimsuit areas). Encourage them to tell you if anyone tries to go beyond these boundaries.
  • Explain to them that they can say ‘no’ to adults and older children if they don’t want to do something, that makes them feel uncomfortable ( that “uh-oh feeling”). Children often think they have to do whatever an adult tells them to, including hugging and kissing.
  • Explain to them that some secrets should never be kept. Abusers and bullies will often say, “It’s our secret, don’t tell anyone,” or even threaten the safety of other family members if they tell anyone about the incident. Tell your child secrets like that should never be kept.
  • Reassure your child that no harm will come to them, or their loved ones, if they tell the truth about uncomfortable situations, something they were forced to do or abuse (verbal, physical or sexual).
  • Encouraging family members to be open with each other will mean that a child is less likely to feel obliged to keep a secret if something does happen. Children should feel that they can tell their parents, or guardians, anything without the fear of getting into trouble. Parents need to take care about the type of adults they allow into the home.

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