Having conversations with children and young people
Topics and conversation starters to help you talk to preschool and school-age children and teenagers about child sexual abuse, created in partnership with Raising Children Network.
Content has been adapted from raisingchildren.net.au with permission.
Talking about child sexual abuse with children and young people helps to keep them safe.
That’s because talking helps children and young people understand what sexual abuse is and gives them language to talk about this issue too. Open and honest conversations send the message that they can always talk to you and that you’ll listen no matter what.
All children and young people have the right to grow up safe from abuse. Talking with children and young people about sexual abuse is part of creating safe environments that help them grow and thrive.
Tips for starting conversations
If you’re not sure how to start, you can talk about sexual abuse as part of conversations about bodies, respect, relationships, consent and online safety. Depending on the child’s age, you could:
- Talk about good things that happen in trusting relationships, like feeling loved and sharing good times. But you might also say that sometimes relationships can make people feel uncomfortable, unsafe, disrespected or bullied – and this isn’t OK.
- Talk about social media and how it lets you connect with people who share your interests – but these might be people you don’t know.
- Use a news report, TV show or talk at school to start a conversation.
- Use everyday opportunities to talk with children and young people about sexual abuse – for example, during dinner or when you’re driving to an after-school activity.
Books are a great way to start conversations about child sexual abuse, particularly with younger children. There are many books and resources available about body boundaries, consent and respectful relationships to help you start conversations. You can find a list of book suggestions in Raising Children Network’s Child sexual abuse: talking to children 0-11 years article.
For older children, you could find out how their school teaches topics like respectful relationships and personal safety. Then you could use this as a starting point and follow up on the information at home.
You don’t have to talk about all aspects of child sexual abuse at once. You can come back to conversations later.
Other helpful resources
Our website contains other resources to support adults to have conversations with children and young people, including the Speak up and make a complaint resources.
Raising Children Network has a range of useful resources to help adults learn more and have conversations with children and young people, including Child sexual abuse: talking to children 0-11 years and Child sexual abuse: talking to teenagers.
The eSafety Commissioner has a range of resources to support online safety, including conversation starters for children and young people, and a picture book and song that can help start early discussions with kids about online safety.
Jack Changes the Game is a picture book developed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) ThinkUKnow program in partnership with the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. Jack Changes the Game supports parents, carers and teachers in discussing some issues around online safety.
Little BIG Chats picture book series by Jayneen Sanders can be used by parents, caregivers and educators to have open and age-appropriate conversations with children about ‘tough’ topics, including body safety.
First Nations resources
There are a number of resources to support First Nations adults to yarn with children and young people about safety, including:
SECCA has resources to support people of all abilities to learn and teach topics related to personal safety, including:
- Feel Safe
- Protective Behaviours
- Early Warning Signs
- Teaching Public and Private
- Wanted and Unwanted Touching
The Feel Safe app can be used by young people with disability, with the support of trusted adults, to learn about personal safety.
Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) are the peak organisation representing the rights and interests of children and young people with disability in Australia. Their website contains resources on child safety and prevention of abuse.
The Disability Gateway contains information and services to help people with disability, their family, friends and carers to find and access support.