Concerns about a child's wellbeing

As parents and carers, we all want to do the best we can to protect our children while giving them the freedom they need to develop towards adulthood. The chances of your child being harmed by an adult are very small, but there are steps you can take to protect them.

It’s normal for children as they grow up to want to become more independent, challenge their parents, push boundaries and try out behaviours in places and situations they feel comfortable in and with people they trust. This might make it more difficult to spot the danger signs.

You should, therefore, watch out for signs that might indicate that your child is troubled about something:

  • Unusual or extreme behaviours such as mood swings, taking risks, using drugs and alcohol, wetting the bed, problems sleeping and/or nightmares, missing school and poor school work
  • ‘Grooming’, the term used to describe how abusers get to know a child by, perhaps, buying them presents, taking them for days out, and giving them money to gain their trust
  • People who try to make friends with you to get close to your child; single parents might be more vulnerable to this
  • Abusers within your child’s group of friends. Abusers are often thought of as adults, and mostly they are, however there have been cases of the groomer being one of the child’s peer group

The best thing you can do for your child is give them confidence and self-belief by making them feel loved and valued.

Specific actions that will protect your child are:

Teach them about stranger danger

  • Be cautious if an adult acquaintance seems to be more interested in your child than you, for example, if they want to babysit or take your child out alone
  • Let your child know you’re always there for them and will believe what they tell you; children rarely lie about abuse
  • Give your child a curfew and emphasise how important it is that you know where they are at all times
  • Make sure your child isn’t alone when they go out; get to know their friends
  • Teach your child that it's safer to hang around in groups; if they walk to and from school without you, encourage them to walk with other children
  • Teach your child to ignore strangers who talk to them
  • Tell your child they must never get into a car with someone they don't know

Educate your child about their body from an early age

  • Let them know their body is their own; tell them which parts are private and shouldn’t be touched by anybody
  • Sex education should start early so children understand what is appropriate and what isn’t; children who are abused often don't understand what is happening to them
  • Tell your child that if an adult makes them feel uncomfortable or afraid, they should get away from that person immediately and then come and tell you

Protect your child online

  • Talk to your child about the dangers of chat rooms and social networking sites
  • Don't panic and ban your child from using the internet altogether or they won't learn how to use it safely
  • Take an interest in what they do online, and keep an eye out for changes in their online behaviour, for example, they suddenly spend much longer online, or try to hide what they're doing
  • Tell them never to give out personal details such as their real name, address or phone number and rehearse how they should act if asked
  • Always have your family computer in a room where you can see what your child is doing
  • If your child makes a friend on the internet and wants to meet up with them in person, never let them go without an adult

If you’re concerned that your child is the victim of abuse, or that they might be involved in the abuse of another child, it’s vital that you take immediate action.

Call the NSPCC child protection helpline on 0808 800 5000 to talk about your concerns. If your child or a child you know is abused, call the police immediately.

You can also contact your local authority children’s services department:

You can find additional support by calling or visiting:

Rate this page