Did you ever have this feeling that you were afraid a child is being abused? A friend reached out for advice this week.
They wanted guidance about how to handle a sensitive situation. They were concerned about a child in their community. They were fearful that the child’s behavior was evidence of abuse. They literally asked me “is this evidence of abuse”?
Legally, I couldn’t answer the question.
But I did have advice.
What My Work as a Child Abuse Investigator Taught Me to Do When You’re Afraid a Child is Being Abused
For those of you who don’t know, I worked as a child abuse investigator before graduate school.
I observed my internal response to being questioned about this child’s wellbeing. And I immediately tapped into the helpless feeling of watching a child suffer. A suffering child provokes a palpable reaction in most people.
[bctt tweet="A suffering child provokes a palpable reaction in most people."]
The question at hand was what to do for this child? Report possible abuse or do nothing?
Here Was My Recommendation:
After a bit of discussion, I encouraged my friend to do anything possible to support the parents while also providing love and boundaries for the child.
I know there are abusive parents. And I know firsthand the devastation of abuse.
But I have never met a parent who wanted to be terrible.
I’ve never met a parent who felt good about hurting their child.
It’s too familiar for parents to be judged for the successes and the struggles of their children.
What if each of us as parents are doing the best we know how.
What if we gave those parenting the benefit of the doubt?
Parenting is the most challenging job a human can have.
It’s ok to mess it up. It’s ok to need help. It’s ok not to know what to do.
[bctt tweet="It's ok to mess it up. It's ok to need help. It's ok not to know what to do."]
When we lift people up by offering them support and a kind word, we are making a more considerable investment than if we criticize, judge or condemn.
When we empathize and encourage, we make it ok to talk about the problem rather than promoting shame and isolation.
Do You Hate Being Judged? Parents too!
Another friend of mine once told me, “People HATE being judged. If you can figure out how to eliminate judgement, everyone will want to buy what you are selling!”
The next time you see a child having a meltdown in the grocery store, check your reaction.
Will you cringe and avoid, or will you greet them with a warm hello?
Chances are both the child and the parent are needing some love and support at that moment!
Everyone responds better to love and support than fear or judgment.
We can only heal the pain and suffering in this world with love over fear.
As for the child my friend called about, we will never know the full story.
However, I know that I can do my part. I can think better of people and treat people with greater kindness. I can do more than believe in the power of change that comes through love – I can be the change.
Are you afraid a child is being abused? Contact me! I am here to help you!