What if I suspect or know my child has done something sexually harmful?
There’s a lot you can do to help. Don’t forget to get support for yourself and give yourself time, so that you’re in the best place to help your child.
After talking about what happened, you can also:
● Help your child think about why they behaved like this – do they have any negative beliefs or influences in their life? Look at this like team-work and be sure the child also still takes responsibility for what has happened – it isn’t about finding excuses.
● Help them to understand why their behaviour was harmful, for example by using the five principles of healthy sexual behaviour above, and discussing their thoughts on different situations.
● Develop a plan together of how they will avoid acting like this again. Good plans are usually about getting rid of negative influences and avoiding high-risk situations, for instance by spending more time in positive friendships and activities. Push the conversation beyond ‘I just won’t do it again’ and focus on the detail of how they won’t.
● Discuss how they might apologise. In many situations, this can massively reduce the impact of what happened, and can also help the person at fault to move on.
● If your child is defensive or opens up very little, help them to see that ignoring is unhelpful and being honest and showing they can change is best for everyone, including them.
As well as talking to your child:
● Talk to your child’s school about what has happened – they should help to reduce the chance of problems in the future. You may be wondering whether you should also talk to the police or social services – discussing the situation with the NSPCC or Stopitnow helplines could help you decide.
Remember, if your child or another person is at immediate risk of harm, you should call 999.
● Do what you can to manage any things you think might have added to their behaviour, for example, peer or family views, pornography, stress, alcohol, loneliness. Don’t be afraid to limit your child’s access to these things but do explain to them why.
● Consider therapy or mentoring for your child. This could help with things such as difficulty in controlling thoughts or feelings, addictive behaviour (including towards the online world), depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, or harmful views on sex and gender. You can find a therapist via your child’s GP, or other support from school and social services.
It’s important to take what has happened seriously, but to also see your child as a whole, including their strengths and positives. Spend time together, be available, and support them in building a full life.