Safety, security, nurturing: what children need to grow and thrive
All children have the right to grow up safe from harm, neglect and abuse. To grow, develop and thrive, children need to feel safe and secure.
It’s never OK to harm a child, no matter how you’re feeling.
If you feel you might hurt your child, or you have hurt your child, you and your child need help. Call Lifeline on 131 114 (24 hours, 7 days). If your child needs medical assistance, call an ambulance on 000.
Harmful behaviour towards children
Harmful behaviour towards children isn’t good for their growth and development. It isn’t good for their physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing.
Harmful behaviour towards children includes:
- using physical force on children – for example, hitting, kicking or shaking children
- neglecting children’s physical or emotional needs – for example, not taking children to the doctor when they’re sick or leaving children alone for long periods of time
- acting in ways that make children feel unloved or worthless – for example, regularly yelling at or constantly criticising children.
Family violence is also harmful to children. Even if children don’t see or hear the violence, they’re affected when someone else in the family is being hurt.
If you think you need help for harmful behaviour towards children, you’re not alone. Every doctor, psychologist, counsellor, social worker and hotline operator has spoken to, and helped, someone just like you.
What to do when you feel you might hurt your child
If you feel like you might hurt your child, here’s what to do.
- Stop yourself from reacting immediately. If you’re holding your child, put them down gently where they’re safe.
- If someone else who also cares for your child is nearby, ask them to take over for a while – for example, your partner, if you have one, or a trusted friend.
- Take some deep breaths. If it’s safe to do so, walk away from your child and have 10-15 minutes alone. If this isn’t possible, sit down near your child and take some ‘time out’.
- Call someone to talk you through the moment, like a family member, a friend or a parenting helpline.
When you’re calmer:
- Think about what has happened and how it’s affecting you and your child.
- Do something to improve the situation.
- Find support to make the changes.
One thing you can do is think about how your own parents responded to you when you were a child. If they acted in harmful ways, it might help to reflect on how you felt. This might give you a sense of how your behaviour is affecting your child. With the right professional support, you can change your behaviour.
Getting support to avoid harmful behaviour towards children
If you feel like you might hurt your child and you’ve recognised these feelings, you can get help to avoid this risk. There are people who can work with you and help you navigate the challenges that come with raising children.
By seeking help, you’re doing the best thing possible for your child, your family and yourself.
Here are some people who can help you:
- counsellors on parenting hotlines
- family support services in your area – contact your local council for information
- your GP
- a psychologist or counsellor – your GP should be able to suggest professionals if you don’t know of any yourself
- a social worker
- alcohol and other drug services
- family violence support services.
Asking for help takes courage. But it also shows that you:
- love your child and have your child’s best interests at heart
- realise there’s a problem
- are taking responsibility
- want things to change for your family
- are committed to improving things.