Tips on how to create a safe environment for your family
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To keep children safe from harm, it is important that protective adults and professionals understand how to create a safe environment for children and young people to discuss any concerns they might have and where they can go for support.
These tips will help parents and carers create a safe environment for children and young people by opening up vital lines of communication, knowing how to respond to concerns, and providing education around preventing child sexual abuse from happening.
Our guide was designed for parents, carers and professionals to help everyone do their part in keeping children safe. You can read through the guide on our site or it is available to download in English or Welsh.
1. Open communication
- Communicating openly with your children about a wide range of topics, including healthy relationships and staying safe can start from a young age.
- Taking some time each day to ask how your children are, whether there is anything on their mind or anything they would like to talk about, can help children and young people to open up and communicate better. This could be when you say goodnight or when they get home from school.
- Children and young people need to be able to trust you enough to reach out to you when things go wrong, or if they are worried about something. Fostering this from an early age will help your child know that you love and care for them even when they have made mistakes, and this may make it more likely that they would come to you when they are troubled.
- Talking provides an opportunity to help your children understand what makes a safe and loving relationship, and to know what makes it unsafe and unhealthy. If no one helps them understand the difference, they will find it difficult to develop the skills to know if they are a victim or the one causing harm.
2. Create a safe environment and respond to concerns
- Creating a home environment that is calm, where adult relationships are modelled in a healthy, loving way will help teach children and young people to respect others.
- Reducing stress and conflict in the home can create a more stable environment where children are less likely to engage in harmful behaviours.
- Young people need to feel like someone has their back even when things go wrong. You can correct your child’s behaviour while also showing how much you love and care for them.
- Expect that your children will make mistakes, you can guide them back on the right path.
- It is important that your child knows you are always there to support them in life if ever they find themselves worried or pressured by anyone or any situation. This can give them the confidence to come to you at any time without fear of being judged.
- When children come to you with concerns about what they may have experienced, seen or done, it is important to help them put things right and make positive changes.
- It is okay to seek support if you are unsure how to respond. The Stop It Now! helpline advisors are there to support and guide you. Call on 0808 1000 900 or use our live chat.
- Being overly restrictive of your children’s internet use or responding to concerns by banning all technology can put them off coming to you with concerns in the future. Instead, help your children by talking them through their worries, helping them to navigate difficulties and setting realistic and healthy boundaries around their internet use.
- Creating positive rules that the family understands and stick to, can prevent harmful behaviours. For example, keeping certain doors open, requiring privacy when bathing or changing clothes, charging devices in the kitchen overnight or playing in spaces that can be observed.
3. Providing education
- Children and young people will naturally have questions about sex and relationships as they grow up and start to mature. They might want to seek these answers out online, so making sure that they have access to reputable sources to find these answers is important, as well as knowing that they can talk to you. Starting these conversations off when they are young can make it easier to support your children’s healthy sexual development.
- Whilst your children’s knowledge of technology might be better than yours, you do know how to initiate and maintain relationships. You can help your children to develop a healthy suspicion of others and help them understand ‘red flags’. For example, someone who tries to get them to break the law, do things they don’t want to do or isolate them from their friends and family.
- You can educate yourself on understanding the dangers and risks related to child sexual abuse and harmful sexual behaviour, both online and offline. Understanding what this is, how it happens, and knowing some of the signs and indicators can help you become more aware of the behaviours you see within your own home, and addressing them if necessary.
- When talking to your child about these issues, it is important to include information about risks, consequences, and the law. Using interactive resources available online to explore these issues in age-appropriate ways with your children can reinforce their understanding.
4. Balancing rights and responsibilities
- You can help your children to understand their rights and responsibilities, especially when they are online. Encouraging them to think about how they can be kind online and reassuring them you will be there if they need any help. It is important to remember that a child is never responsible if an adult grooms and manipulates them online.
- Respecting young people’s privacy, especially as they move into adolescence, whilst still supporting and encouraging them. This helps them take responsibility for their own behaviours.
The next page will give you some tips on how to start conversations with children and young people about sex and relationships and how to spot worrying warning signs.