“When a child tells you they don’t feel comfortable around someone, pay attention”.

Martin Dearlove posted this recently on LinkedIn and it really struck a cord with me. I was going to repost but I felt I wanted to say more about this.

I think of myself in these situations when my children were young and said something like this and I didn’t know what to do with it. As a young mother without the skills and knowledge I have today I just didn’t have the resources within me to know what action to take. I hadn’t done all the personal work that I’ve done over these 30 years. What I found myself doing was to withdraw from the situation, which is one action and I would definitely act in a more empowered vocal way today.

So what I thought I would offer was some ideas if you don’t know what to do! Depending on the situation and who the child feels uncomfortable with, these ideas may or may not fit, and you can use them as a starting point for yourself.

  1. Validate the child’s feeling and support the child to trust that feeling;
  2. Keep your mind open and listen carefully;
  3. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly – The child may be triggered by someone who reminds them of another person that makes them feel uncomfortable;
  4. Explore the child’s disclosure to you – Most children love to draw – ask them if they would like to draw their feeling, encouraging conversation throughout the process;
  5. Seek support – find someone you can talk to that may be able to guide you.

The ‘gut feeling’ still doesn’t hold much weight and it is important to start acting from this point. What I mean by acting is to engage with the child and their feeling. Explore your own feelings about what the child has verbalised.

Even if there is no action taken after you report the child’s statement, stick with the child as much as you can in whatever the circumstance is. At the very least they will have someone who believes them and their ‘gut feeling’ and is listening to them. This support cannot be undervalued and may well avoid the child isolating and not speaking up further. We want to encourage their voice and keep them connected to their survival instinct – their ‘gut feeling’.

What other ideas do you have for this situation, I’d love to hear them. Comment below.