NSPCC's response to your concerns about keeping your child safe

We have teamed up with Jane Petrie, a parenting advisor from the NSPCC and offered a Q&A session on concerns from parents on keeping their children safe. The topics raised were sensitive and hope the information is of interest to all parents as they raise worries that many of us face.

If the discussion triggers worries about your children, please contact one of our Family Support Workers who can help and support you if you have any concerns.  You can email uslive chat or call our helpline on 0808 800 2222. 

 

Dear Jane,

 

Hope you don't mind me contacting you but I am feeling worried about my daughter.  She has a friend in school who she sees a lot and has just asked if my daughter can go for a sleepover next weekend but I have to admit I don't feel comfortable with it. I have allowed her to stay over with other friends before but there is something about this family I don't feel 100% comfortable with. Call it mother's intuition but I really don't feel happy.  I have nothing to go on but that, but what do I do? 

Sleepover-party Mum  

Dear Sleepover-party Mum

I wonder if you feel uncertain about this invitation because you don’t know this family. I understand your caution as you lack sufficient knowledge of the family to be sure your child will be safe.  Maybe suggest the sleepover is at your house, or ask the girls to wait until you know the family better. 

Consider having a general conversation with your daughter about what to do if she feels unsafe or uncomfortable when out and about. Tell her that she can always talk to you and you will support her what-ever happens. 

If you let her go on sleep-overs with any friends,  I suggest a secret code to use if she wants to come home. For example, make up story about a sick aunt. She can ask to phone home to check up on her ‘aunt’. When she says ’ Hi mum, I am worrying about Aunty’ you know that she wants to come home. She can then say to her friends, ‘I was right, my Aunty is really sick and I need to go home’ and leave without upsetting anyone.

I hope this helps, 

Jane 

 

Dear Jane,

I have just entered into a new relationship having been on my own for a quite some time.  I have a teenage daughter. 

I am just wondering whether there is any way for me to check my partners’ history.  I know in this day and age you can’t be too careful.  I have no reason to think that there is anything to be worried about but understandably want to ensure that my daughter will be safe.  

A Single parent 

Dear Single Parent

It can be difficult to introduce new partners to children. Although you are worried, you also say that you have no real suspicions of your partner. Don’t rush, take your time to grow your relationship. Take things slowly around your daughter and help her to get to know your partner too. Perhaps you need to discuss with both your partner and your daughter how you each see your household changing: how do you expect they will fit in? Is your partner going to be a parent-figure or principally your companion? This may help you all trust each other more. 

Where parents have a specific suspicion and concern, Sarah’s Law, introduced following the murder of Sarah Payne, permits parents and carers to ask police to check if a new partner, neighbours or persons with access to their child has a past history of abuse (available via any police force in England and Wales). 

There is also a trial scheme know as Clare’s law, where police will provide information about partners’ history of domestic violence. Domestic violence is closely linked to child abuse. Clare’s law checks are available if you live in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Wiltshire and Nottinghamshire forces but not yet available nationally. 

For more advice on how to access either of these services you can contact our helpline counsellors.

Hope this will give you peace of mind.

Jane 

 

Dear Jane,

My son recently confided in me that his friend had touched my son’s private parts.  This happened some time ago and my son has made me promise that I won’t tell anyone.  I have known for a while that something was up and my son eventually wrote me a letter.

Could it just be that they were simply playing around and things got a little out of hand, or is this something I should be really concerned about.  My son remains friends with the other child and I am very good friends with the parents and I know that bringing this up could destroy our friendships.

Please help.

A Worried Parent

Dear Worried Parent 

You are right to recognise that this could be experimentation related to children’s normal growing sexual awareness. But touching by another child may be an indicator your son’s friend has troubles of his own and is in need of help. You may find it useful to read the NSPCC booklet ‘What can I do? Protecting your child from sexual abuse’ available on the NSPCC website. 

It may have been a relatively innocent event, but the impact on your child is also worrying. That it is still bothering him now indicates he needs help to understand what happened. He will probably feel uncomfortable talking to you about this, but Childline is a place where he can talk and get advice and that you know is safe. (0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk)  

This could be nothing or it could be something. It is important that you talk this through with our trained counsellors at the NSPCC. 

Jane 

 

Dear Jane,

Please help.  I have this awful feeling that my son is being groomed on the internet.  He talks to a “boy” who is supposed to be the same age as him. I have seen some of the chats but my son is very secretive.  

From the chats that I have seen he has asked some quite intimate questions about his sexuality, whether he likes girls, has lost his virginity etc and I am beginning to wonder whether this might be an adult.  He has asked for photos but so far, to my knowledge this hasn’t happened. 

I have to be careful as I don’t want my child to feel that I am prying. However, I have to do my best to keep him safe. I am worried that he might try to encourage my child to meet up with him.  I can’t tell my partner who would go up the wall.

Do I need to be worried?

Parent of Digital-age teenager

Dear Parent of Digital-age teenager

I can understand your worry. You may have good cause but from the limited  information you have shared it is hard to determine the true risks. I think you need to talk to your son and let him know you have his best interest at heart. You both may also benefit from some additional professional support.

Teenagers typically start to pull away from parents and become more secretive. Parents need to balance trusting their youngsters with wanting to oversee and control their activities. Social network sites offer opportunities to meet others in the safety of their own room. This can make children bolder and less wary than they might be if they met a stranger on a dark street.  

There is information on websites such as CEOP, Saferinternet and the NSPCC about how to use social networks safely. Young people often know more about computers and the internet than their parents, but it is important that your son knows you care and are there to help him if he experience problems.

Pick your moment to talk to him, somewhere private where you won’t be disturbed – go for a walk, take a drive in the car. Plan what you are going to say and avoid too much emotion. I have found the following structure helpful: ‘I notice… I think… I feel… I need…’ An example might be:  ‘I notice you spend a lot of time talking the internet. I think you need some privacy BUT I feel worried because some friendships that start this way may be dangerous. I need you to know that I care about your safety and that I am willing to listen if you want to talk.’ 

Alternatively you may want to encourage your son to look at the information for young people on Childline (0800 1111 orwww.childline.org.uk) which is a place where he can talk and get more advice. 

I hope this helps

Jane