How Do I Keep My Children Safe?

We see cases almost daily in the media of children being abused by those who were entrusted to care for our children. As parents, it can be hard to know what can be done to keep your children safe from abuse by those we trust.

10 solid actions you can take today to help keep your children safe

  1. Tell your children that it is not ok for anyone to hurt them or make them feel uncomfortable, and they should tell you if that happens.
  2. Set aside time to do an “open-ended” activity with your child – with younger children this can be unstructured play and with older children this could be open-ended, “ask me anything”- type of conversations. You will be surprised how much your child discloses to you about the stressors in their life through these types of activities.
  3. Sudden changes in behavior are often due to a change or a stressor in the child’s life. One such stressor could be abuse. Talk with your child and let them explain what is bothering them – and be sure to believe them.
  4. Teach your children that adults should never ask them to keep secrets – no secrets, period.
  5. Educate your children on the correct terms for their body parts. This will allow your younger children to more clearly verbalize abuse if it occurs.
  6. Let children decide for themselves how they want to express affection. By never forcing a kiss or hug, this empowers children to say “no” to other inappropriate touching that makes them uncomfortable.
  7. With older children – talk with them about online safety and the risks of sexting.
  8. Practice “what if” scenarios with your child that are age appropriate to help your child think through how they would handle situations where an adult makes them feel uncomfortable (role play how they would say “no” and then tell another adult that they trust).
  9. When children tell you they are being mistreated, believe them. When something strikes you as odd about how your child is being treated that makes you suspect abuse, don’t dismiss the hunch or your gut feeling. Make a report to ChildLine by calling 800-932-0313.
  10. Demand that those providing services and programs to your children have strong child protection policies in place. All services for children should be able to provide you with their child protection policy – review that policy to ensure it supports zero tolerance for child maltreatment and abuse, that it never allows one child to be alone with one adult, and that it contains levels of transparency throughout. Ensure that all staff working with your children have child abuse history and criminal background clearances that show no violations or red flags.

PFSA has a sample child protection policy and is open to review such policies with agencies to ensure they are using known prevention strategies.

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