What Is Abuse? Tips on Talking About and Preventing Abuse in the Family

As a parent of an abused child, you have a crucial role and responsibility to your child. While it may be very difficult, you should explain to them that even though there are different kinds of abuse, all are just as serious as the other. Take into account that you are not sure how long the conversation could last and try to find a moment when you have plenty of time, such as out for a walk, a bike ride or an afternoon in the car.

Key Points to Bring Up When Talking About Abuse

The best way to describe child abuse to a young child is in a way that will be easy to understand. Plain and simple, child abuse happens when someone, especially a grown-up, hurts a child on purpose … whether it is hitting children, yelling at them all the time or touching them in an unwanted manner. Neglect is also considered abuse, when children are not provided with basic care they need such as clean clothes or medicines. Regardless of how young our children are, instill in them an understanding that if something an adult does makes him or her uncomfortable, the child needs to talk to someone he or she loves and trusts about how to make the situation better. With a very young child, watching a cartoon character on TV hurt another cartoon character, even if it is just a bop on the head, may be the perfect way to open up the door to talking about such an uncomfortable topic.

No matter what age, race, religion, background, economic standing, the list can go on, abuse can and does happen in many homes. Talk to your children about the difference between good secrets (like your brother’s birthday present), and bad secrets (someone forced them into something they didn’t want to do). Remind your children that whatever happened, or is happening to them, it is not their fault. It’s also a good idea to explain that the person, even if it is the other parent, that is hurting them, needs help so he or she can learn how to stop.

As your child gets older remember to use the proper names for body parts and physical touch. The more relaxed you seem when you approach the subject of abuse or possible abuse, the more comfortable your young one will feel. Try to avoid asking leading questions or simple yes-no questions. Abuse comes in many forms and each person in an abuse situation is affected differently. Children and adolescents shouldn’t be made to feel alone or as if no one cares for them. It’s always a good idea to remind your young ones that even if they don’t feel comfortable with one of their parents, a trusted adult can also be a neighbor or a teacher at school.

Reaching Out for Help

If you suspect a child you know is being abused, call the Child Help USA hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453).

Remember Talking Is Two-Way Street

Most importantly, when a child decides to talk to you about an abuse situation, remain calm. Avoid denying the situation and turning it into an interrogation. While it is important to document as much as you can, it is just as important to provide a safe and welcoming environment. Also, be open to questions and maybe even share some of your past experiences with your child. Having discussions like this can be very difficult but it can also bring you and your child much closer.

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