How to Foster an Environment Where Children Feel Comfortable Speaking Up

Today we’re continuing the discussion on how to talk with children about trafficking. Special thanks to Human Trafficking Search for giving us the opportunity to raise awareness about this important issue and how you can educate your children. Talking to children about issues like child sex trafficking can be intimidating, for both parents and children alike. It is essential to create an environment where children feel comfortable speaking up about difficult topics, without fear of punishment or judgement, and without being worried that they are going to get in trouble or get someone else in trouble.

Kelly and Kids

Kelly and Kids

These discussions should not just happen one time; you want your child to know that they can come to you at any time to continue the conversation. Be proactive in bringing up these topics. Next week we will talk about some easy conversation starters to help begin an ongoing dialogue.

As we mentioned in our previous blog post on discussing trauma, effective communication with your children is very important. For most parents, they are unaware that their children know as much as they do about sex. So, have an ongoing conversation with them and help them to feel comfortable about talking openly. If something that your child says surprises you, don’t appear alarmed or upset. Welcome your child to share what he or she knows. This is the best time to share facts and dispel myths. Always let your child know that you are in this together!

Be sure to encourage them to be honest about their true feelings, fears and questions. We shared this last week in the post on trauma, but it is worth repeating—throughout the conversation, listen to your child speak without interrupting, judging or criticizing. Allow your child to express himself or herself completely. Be aware of how you react to what your child says—your facial expressions and body language can communicate judgment or acceptance.

After these conversations occur, we encourage you to check back in with your child in a few days or weeks as they might have additional questions after having more time to think about it. Again, keep a list of resources handy in the event a child discloses information that requires follow-up.

If you are not a parent, but you work with children in some other capacity (as a teacher, counselor, volunteer mentor, at a youth-serving organization, etc.), it is still important that you help create an environment where children feel comfortable talking about these issues. If a topic like child sex trafficking comes up, we recommend letting parents know so that they can be prepared to answer any questions the child might have later.

In the next couple of weeks we will be discussing conversation starters, how to answer difficult questions and online safety. Be sure to check back in with the Human Trafficking Search blog for more information!

youthSpark is a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, GA that works "to provide education and training, resources and counseling to protect youth who are at risk of sexual exploitation, transitioning them to healthy, productive lives." We want to create a world where no child becomes a victim of child sex trafficking and no individual ever buys or sells another human. For more information about our work to end child sex trafficking through prevention and early intervention, please visit our website at www.youth-spark.org. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates about our work and how you can get involved.