Lesson 3 - Talking with Children

When parents are concerned about possible abuse, their first step is often to contact their health care provider. Children brought in for care may have injuries, or be exhibiting behavioral changes that are concerning for possible abuse.

If you observe physical evidence of abuse, employ only open-ended questions in asking the child about it. For example, if a child displays unusual bruising, ask “How did you get hurt?” rather than “Did your father do that? or “Who hit you?” If a caretaker describes concerning behaviors, you might ask the child privately whether there is something going on that is making the child angry or unhappy.

When talking with a child about concerns

  • If possible, conduct the discussion in private
  • Sit near the child, rather than behind a table or desk
  • Use age-appropriate language the child understands
  • Allow the child to tell you of their experience in their own words; refrain from asking leading or suggestive questions
  • Gather only enough information to determine if a report is warranted. Do not investigate!

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