For Parents and Carers
Finding out that your child has been sexually abused is a traumatic experience. You will have many difficult emotions to deal with.
An abused child’s behaviour is driven by their underlying feelings and by the fact that they are in survival mode. It’s just their way of telling you that they are hurting, scared and/or anxious inside. For example, when a child appears to be angry they may actually be feeling scared.
Please speak to the professionals already supporting your child(ren) and encourage them to contact us directly.
We have nearly completed our guide for parents/carers available here soon.
Child sexual abuse (CSA) affects everyone else in the family too: family and friends can all react differently, and this can sometimes put a strain on relationships. You can play a powerful role in helping your child heal from the trauma of CSA. But you will also need support for yourself.
Nothing can change the fact that sexual abuse has happened to your child. Your task is now to find a way to live with it – the best possible way you can.
Extract from Helping Your Child Recover from Sexual Abuse, Adams and Fay, 1998 p. xii
We are developing Peer Support Groups for parents/carers. Please contact us for more information.
Some Advice for Parents and Carers
- The most important message you can give your child is that you believe them.
- Listen to your child (it can come out anytime so stop what you’re doing and pay attention). Allow them to talk whenever they want to, and acknowledge how they’re feeling: ‘It’s OK to feel …’
- You might want to you use drawings or paintings to help your child express their feelings.
- As children grow, the way they feel about what happened to them will change. They’ll need opportunities to talk and ask questions, so check in on them every so often – and perhaps on the anniversary of the date they first told anyone.
- Spending one-to-one time with your child doing things they enjoy will help them feel safe and emotionally connected. Try reading together, cooking or making something. Whatever they enjoy doing.
- Be patient. If they don’t want to talk, don’t push them.
- Acknowledge that it might be difficult or scary for them to talk to you about what happened. Let them know that once they start talking about it, it will feel less scary.
- If you can’t talk to your child or they won’t talk to you, try to find another safe adult they trust, such as a teacher or another family member.
- Set firm, consistent and realistic boundaries. This will help them feel safe and secure so they do not need to operate in survival mode all the time.
- Respond with kindness, even if your child’s behaviour is challenging. ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ ‘I like who you are.’ This is to remind them you love them no matter what.
- Find ways to help them relax every day, for example having a bath, listening to music or playing. It has been scientifically proven that play helps to calm children. If your child is older, try to spend time with them doing something they enjoy.
- If they have a flashback or panic attack, help them to focus on the present (what they can see, hear and smell). Encourage them to take slow, deep breaths.
- Perhaps make a family memory jar. Jot down positive family moments on a slip of paper and store them in the jar. At a later date, you can empty the jar look back at these positive memories.
- Remember: you know your child best. You are the expert. Use your own instincts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Please take a look at our FAQ guide for parents.