How to Talk to a Child About Abuse

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If you work with children, there is a chance that some day a child will disclose abuse to you. Would you know what to do?

In an article entitled “Talking to a Child who has been Abuse,” authors Saraswathy Ramamoorthy and Judith A. Myers-Walls, Ph.D., CFLE, share considerations to keep in mind when a child discloses abuse. These considerations include:

  • Reassure the child that the abuse is not his or her fault. Children who have been abused need to know they have not done anything wrong.
     
  • Avoid showing shock, anger or disgust. Children will watch you carefully for your reaction and you need to stay calm at all times.
     
  • Use words that can be easily understood by the child. “When you use the same words as the child does, it helps the child feel less confused and more relaxed,” explain the authors. “The child will feel that you understand him.”
     
  • Ask appropriate questions. “Remember that you can do more harm by supplying a child with words and ideas,” the authors state. “Let the child tell her own story and give you the answers.” Avoid why questions such as “Why did he hurt you?”  Why questions will confuse children; often do not understand why abuse has happened.
     
  • Be honest with the child. Tell the child know what you are going to do, and don’t promise him things that cannot be done.
     
  • Confirm for the child that it is normal to feel scared, hurt, confused or angry.
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Thank you Rachel for your past two posts. Great ideas, keep them coming.