Establishing and maintaining a close, supportive relationship with your children at home provides a wonderful foundation for keeping them safe, happy and healthy outside of it. Here are four ways to nurture that kind of relationship on an ongoing basis:
• Establish house rules that everyone follows – even Mom, Dad and visitors.
• Eat meals as a family as often as possible; research shows it is beneficial for the family as a whole.
• Plan a family movie night, game night or outing once a month and require everyone to be there.
• Take care of yourself! The better you feel, the stronger you are.
Of course, having a close and supportive relationship alone isn’t enough to keep them safe. You have to actually have the tough conversations with your kids about abuse as well as other difficult subjects like drugs, sex and bullying. They should learn how to protect themselves and feel comfortable enough to tell you if something has happened.
When having these conversations with your children, it’s important to keep it short and simple. Never use scare tactics. Be a good listener. Ask open-ended questions, but don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t seem interested in talking at first – he or she really is. If you discover something from the conversation that doesn’t sit right with you, always trust your instincts and follow up on it.
And finally, never force your children to be around others that make them uncomfortable, or to hug or be affectionate with others; it’s important that they feel empowered that their body is their own, and such actions should be their decision.
These are difficult topics for both children and parents, so support is often helpful. There are plenty of websites that offer support, ideas and parenting tips. There are also many community programs that support children and families; you can find such resources by calling 2-1-1. If you have reason to suspect abuse has occurred call the DCF Careline at 1-800-842-2288.
You can also contact the Family Advocacy Center at Day Kimball Healthcare for more information about parenting support programs like Nurturing Families and advocacy services for children who have been abused through Wendy’s Place child advocacy center; just call (860) 963-6599.
Christine Collins is Director of Child Advocacy Programs at Day Kimball Healthcare.