by Bracha Jakofsky, MSW, JCFS Abuse Prevention Coordinator and Elizabeth Ury, MA, JCFS Director of Jewish Engagement
Open lines of communication between children and parents are vital in empowering young children to make safe choices and to keep themselves safe. JCFS Chicago has created a list of tips to help you create a welcoming environment for these important conversations.
Be an Askable Parent
Strive to be the parent your child feels comfortable and safe talking to about anything. Build trust with your child by making them feel heard and respected when they communicate with you. Keep lines of communication open by talking with children early and often about personal safety. Take advantage of natural moments alone together in the car, during bath time with younger children, or before bed to hold these important conversations.
Begin Conversations About Safety at a Young Age
For preschool aged children, the conversation can be simple and short, while focusing on basic safety rules in your home. As a child gets older, safety tips should be more specific and frequently stated. ‘What if’ scenarios can be used to role play and identify safe and unsafe situations. Open-ended dialogue will allow your child to engage in the conversation, build trust, and increase comfort with the topics, which will hopefully lead to further and more nuanced conversations as your child gets older.
Stay Present with Your Child During Difficult Conversations
Your reaction affects how comfortable your child feels in disclosing sensitive information and responding to your questions. Manage your responses or reactions to bring a sense of calm and normalcy to the conversation. This allows your child to feel comfortable approaching you. If they start disclosing something and choose not to continue, don’t rush them. Create safety for them to talk, even if it is later. Stay calm and tell your child you are proud of them for opening up with you. Don’t forget to convey that you believe them!