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What If a Child Tells You That He/She is Being Abused or Neglected?

There may be a time when a child or adolescent tells you, openly or indirectly, that he/she is being abused or neglected. Recognize the strength that the child is demonstrating by sharing this very personal information with you. Honor the trust the child has shown you by making you his/her confidant.

Although it may be a difficult subject for you to discuss, it is important that you handle the disclosure with sensitivity. In part, this can be accomplished by following these guidelines:

  • Listen to what the child is telling you.
  • Reassure the child that telling you was the right thing to do.
  • Keep your own feelings under control.
  • Use the child’s vocabulary. Do not correct his/her terminology.
  • Do not promise not to tell anybody else.
  • Tell the truth. Do not make promises you cannot keep.
  • Be specific. Let the child know what is going to happen.
  • Assess the child’s immediate safety.
  • Be supportive.
  • Try to help the child regain control by allowing him/her to participate in decisions about his/her welfare whenever possible.


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