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When a Child Expresses Concern

When a child expresses a concern… Listen, listen, listen

When a child or young person talks about harm or abuse that they are suffering:

  • create a safe environment in which the child or young person can share their concerns

  • react calmly so as not to further distress the child or young person

  • listen carefully to what the child or young person has to say

  • allow them time to say what they want

  • don’t rush or interrupt them, or ask more questions than you need to in order to establish whether there is cause for concern, or to ensure a clear and accurate understanding of what has been said

  • if you need to ask questions to clarify what the child is saying, always use open questions and not closed questions (eg “Who is it you are afraid of?” not “Is it Daddy you are afraid of?”)

  • as soon as you believe there is cause for concern allow the child to finish, but do not question them any further. Explain that you will have to tell someone who knows what to do next

  • accept what the child or young person says and take seriously what you are hearing

  • reassure the child or young person, and tell them that you know how difficult it must be to confide in you

  • tell the child or young person that s/he is not to blame and that s/he has done the right thing in speaking to you

  • help the child or young person to understand what is going to happen next – the child should be informed that other people will need to be told about the concerns which have been shared, and who those people may be

  • do not promise, or lead a child to believe, that any child protection concern which affects them or other children or young people will be kept confidential

  • be aware that a child or young person may be frightened and that they may have been threatened if they tell of what has been happening to them

  • remember that most children feel loyalty to their parents and other significant people in their lives and often find it difficult to say things to their detriment

  • make notes as soon as possible afterwards using the child’s language and recording any questions that you asked to prompt for a response


  • Listen and clarify

  • Give support

  • Explain what happens next   

  • Take action


  • Minimise

  • Show shock, alarm or disapproval

  • Question or push for information

  • Offer false re-assurance

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