Your role in prevention

Many parents will be reluctant to engage in conversations about child sexual abuse (CSA). Some adults don’t understand the facts about CSA and believe in the common misconceptions.

Your role as a practitioner is to remove the stigma around the subject, help parents understand risk, and share preventative information to increase protection.

Here are some resources to try using with parents to open up conversations about sexual abuse and its prevention.

SMART rules

The best way to protect children from sexual abuse is to talk about it. Make parents and carers aware that sexual abuse thrives on secrecy. The more it’s spoken about the better-protected children will be.

To open up the conversation you could use our SMART rules cards. SMART is an acronym for Secrecy, Monitor, Attention, Respect, and Talk. Looking through a resource together and discussing it in a relaxed and casual setting may help parents and carers become more open to discussing CSA.

There are also SMART rules to use with children. These could be given to parents to encourage them to talk to their children.

Who parents should leave their child with

It’s really important to communicate to parents that they should be cautious about who they leave their children with. Talking to parents about their own wider family as part of their safety networks along with trusted organisations can be helpful.

This will be different for foster carers as they will be limited to nominated carers or other people and organisations approved by Children’s Services, supervising social workers, and the child’s social worker.

Talk to parents about how to research appropriate childcare facilities and the importance of full DBS checks. In family or social situations parents should be aware that because sexual abuse often isn’t reported, a DBS check will offer very limited information.

Encourage parents to ask to see safeguarding policies for groups or organisations they use for childcare.

Encourage those parents who use informal childcare within their family or friend network, to set appropriate boundaries and expectations with those who are looking after their children. If parents are leaving their child with another family member or friend, then it is important to remind them to ensure that their children know how to say no to any activities they don’t like or that make them feel uncomfortable, and that they can speak out if they have any worries.

Family safety plan

Helping families create a family safety plan can get the conversation flowing around staying safe online and offline. Our guide shows how to create one and outlines the importance of discussing and identifying risk factors. 

You could start by giving an example – the internet is always a good place to start. Talk to parents about the positives – as well as the risks – of the internet.

You can then move on to discuss other risk factors.

Encourage parents to involve the whole family and work together. This will open up the lines of communication between parents and their children.

More information about developing a family safety plan can be found on the Parents Protect website.

Parents Protect programme

Our series of films aim to inform adults about how and why child sexual abuse happens, how to prevent harm from happening in the first place, and where to get help if something has already happened.

All videos are available in English and Welsh. You can signpost parents to them or watch them together. Please visit the Parents Protect website to access the films.

Hopes and fears

Talk to parents about their hopes for their children and what their fears are. You can use our family safety plan template to make notes together. Discussing a parent’s fears will naturally lead to other conversations.

We would recommend treading lightly with this technique and perhaps revisiting it over more than one occasion if necessary.

Supporting your conversations

We have a range of other tools designed to open up conversations with parents. These tools can also help parents have conversations with their children.

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