“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.

Author: Linda Conyard

Linda Conyard is the Host and Producer of The Truth About Trauma TV, Director of Phoenix Rising Foundation, Author, Speaker and Trauma Specialist. She has gained a wealth of knowledge through her vast studies. Her mission is to eliminate unnecessary trauma through education and training in Trauma-Informed Care and Practice. She wants to see this education becoming part of all our major systems. Linda is a Mentor and Coach to female entrepreneurs who want to uncover what is at the core of their underwhelming business results. She is passionate about women having the financial freedom to make choices that are perfect for them.

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

  1. Linda, I agree with all your suggestions. It’s the responsibility of all adults to be aware and listen to children’s concerns. Children ‘know’ when they are being ‘fobbed off’, when there is doubt of being believed. They will suffer in silence for fear of upsetting adults or worse, being accused of making up stories. In the event of sexual abuse, it can be extremely scary for a child to share this information with anyone, especially when the abuser is the child’s parent. Knowing they will be believed and not judged is the single most important factor for a child to take that initial step.
    I was an adult when I took those first tentative steps to talk about my abused childhood. In my case, as a child, the signs were all there for everyone to see. Bedwetting, nightmares, anxiety, learning difficulties, failures at school. When questioned why I took so long bringing it out in the open I sensed disbelief and regressed to my former self. Many years passed before I was confident enough to share more of my story, still feeling I wasn’t fully believed. Feeling their doubt and judgement, my shame and guilt escalated. My abuser was held in high esteem, so why would I be believed?
    My journey of healing began when talking to you, Linda. You believed me without question, validated me and was always sensitive to my needs and feelings. Every child has the right of protection, to have confidence they are being listened to and believed. I totally agree with your wise words, Linda, that ‘this support cannot be undervalued and may well avoid the child isolating and not speaking up further’.

    1. Thanks so much Anne for commenting here. We both know this in and of itself is a big step for you having your voice. Proud of you and how far you have come in your trauma recovery! Now it’s about tweaks and continuing awareness. Love Linda xxx

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