Child abuse and what to look for
No parent wants to think about the possibility of their child becoming a victim of abuse, and most children are never abused. Even so, it is important for parents to be aware of the possibility and to know that help is available if the unthinkable does happen.
Although there is always a lot of media focus on ‘stranger danger’, the abduction of children is rare and the threat from strangers is quite small. You should still ensure that your child knows the rules about keeping safe when they are out alone.
Most children know their abusers. They may be family members or friends of family, someone who works with the child or someone who lives in the community.
There are four types of abuse: physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and neglect.
There are many signs, or indicators that a child might be suffering abuse. There may be injuries, but it is more likely that you will notice some change in your child’s behaviour.
If you notice anything that concerns you, talk to your child to see if you can find out what is happening. Remember that, if your child is being harmed, she or he may be too frightened to tell you. If your child becomes distressed or you are not happy with the explanations, you could talk to an adult you trust or call a helpline or children’s social care services. Our designated person at school will also try to help.
Some signs to look for are:
- bruises or other injuries
- a change in behaviour – from quiet to loud, or from happy-go-lucky to withdrawn
- pain or discomfort
- fear of a particular person, or a reluctance to be alone with them
- secrecy around a relationship with a particular person
- reluctance to discuss where they go, or who they are with
- sexual talk or knowledge beyond their years
- being watchful, or always on edge
- losing interest in their appearance, hobbies or family life
- alcohol or drug taking
- having money and refusing to say where it has come from
- wetting the bed
- becoming clingy
You will find more useful information in the school’s child protection policy.
If your child is being bullied
We define bullying as behaviour that is deliberate, repeated more than once and is designed to be hurtful. Bullies tend to pick on children who they think are unable to defend themselves. Bullying is not only about hitting or fighting. It also includes name calling, threats, taking belongings, intimidating and making unkind or abusive remarks. Children may try to hide the fact they are being bullied because they are afraid or ashamed but you might notice some signs, for example your child might:
- change their behaviour
- come home with torn clothing
- ‘lose’ their dinner money, or ask for extra money
- try to avoid going to school
- complain regularly of headaches or stomach aches
- have unexplained cuts and bruises
- play truant.
We have anti-bullying procedures that help us to identify and deal with any case of bullying in school, but bullying does not only take place in school, it can also happen in the home or in the community.
Bullying can be serious and cause a lot of distress. If your child tells you that they are being bullied in school, ask for their permission for you to tell us. They may not have told us themselves because they are afraid that the bully will find out and the bullying will get worse. Try to help them to understand that the bullying will not stop while it is kept secret. As soon as we know it is happening we will follow our anti-bullying procedures to try to stop it.
It is also distressing to suspect that your child might be bullying other children. Our anti-bullying procedures include trying to support children who bully to change their behaviour, so please talk to us if you think your child needs some help.
You will find some useful sources of information and support at the end of this booklet.
What we will do if we have a concern about your child
If we are concerned that your child may be at risk of abuse or neglect we must follow the procedures in our child protection policy. You can look at the policy on the school website or come into school and see a copy.
The procedures have been written to protect all pupils. They comply with our statutory responsibilities and are designed to support pupils, families and staff. The procedures are based on the principle that the welfare of the child is the most important consideration.
In almost all circumstances, we will talk to you about our concerns and we will also tell you if we feel we must refer our concerns to children’s social care. We will ask your consent to make a referral, but in some circumstances we may need to make the referral against your wishes. We will only do this if we genuinely believe that this is the best way to protect your child, and the fact that you did not consent to the referral will be recorded.
If we think that talking to you first might in some way increase the risk to your child, we will report our concerns to children’s social care and take advice from them. We will normally tell you that a referral is being made and we will record the reasons why we decided to follow this course of action.
All child protection records are kept separate from your child’s general school file. Records are stored in a locked cabinet or drawer, and if stored on computer they are password-protected. The only staff who have access to the records are those who need to know about the concerns in order to protect and support your child.
Child protection is a very sensitive issue and it raises many questions and a range of strong emotions. We will do everything we can support our pupils and you can be assured that any action we take will be in the best interests of your child.
Ten tips for keeping your temper
Children and young people can be infuriating sometimes. They need to be taught the right way to behave and sometimes they test parents to the limit. The trouble is, if we lose our temper too often they may become frightened – or they may realise they have found just how to wind us up.
When you feel you are losing your temper or are ready to shout or lash out, try these tips to calm down. They may defuse the situation and give you time to consider how best to handle it.
- take some deep breaths
- count to 10
- close your eyes for a moment, to decide what to say
- depending on the age of your child, tell them calmly but firmly to go to their room also, depending on the age of your child, leave the room and get some fresh air
- turn on some music – nothing too loud
- sit down
- hug a pillow!
- if another adult is present, hand over to them
- phone a friend