People often say to me that they’re not allowed to talk to kids about their abusive experiences.
When children start to tell them something, they then have to put it all on hold and inform the social worker.

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/firina (adapted)

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/firina (adapted)

Why “passing it on” is the wrong approach…

In our first post on managing disclosures we talked about the profound nature of hearing disclosures.

If kids choose to tell us their hard stuff it’s an immense privilege!

In this post, I want to cover the one crucial thing that shouldn’t happen next…

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One thing we should never do…

Pass it on.

If all that we said in the last post is true (that kids choose who they tell, as well as the time and place) then surely we owe it to them to see it through?

If we don’t, and we ask them to “hold onto that” or some such delaying instruction, we’re giving them the wrong message.
Messages like:

  • The timing is wrong – we’re telling the child that for whatever reason this isn’t the right time to be talking about this stuff.
  • The place or situation is wrong – we’re saying that to tell us this stuff here is somehow inappropriate. Maybe it’s the place or the current circumstances or the setting. Either way, it’s a bad time.
  • The person is wrong – perhaps most damaging of all is the message that “I’m the wrong person to be telling this to.”

All this is toxic.

Whatever the child’s perception – accurate or not – it’s damaging.


Because if there’s a way to close a child down and delay – or prevent forever – any future attempts to speak up, this is it.


But it’s not my job to take disclosures…

Perhaps your role isn’t one that routinely deals with this kind of thing.Or maybe your agency has instructed you to  pass things on to a social worker or police officer if/when this occurs.

This is tricky and one which leaves you in a very difficult position.

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In order to do best by the child, you need to listen. So here’s the issue…


Does listening compromise my role or my agency’s preferred approach?

I doubt it. I guess it’s all a matter of degree.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/ArminStautBerlin

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/Armin Staut Berlin

The degree to which you engage actively with the child and thereby prolong the conversation is likely to be the thing that causes you an issue.

But the crucial task of  listening still stands.

  • You can listen without interrupting.
  • You can listen without asking questions or prompting.
  • You can listen without leading or being suggestible.

What harm could this possibly do?

None at all.

So whatever your role or agency policy, whatever you do, don’t ever close a child down.

Listen, however passively you think is necessary.

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Final word…

It’s all about respect.

We all talk about being child centred. Most of us strive in our practice to actually be child centred.

Can asking a child to hold off on telling us this key information ever be really child-centred?

I don’t think so…


What do you think?…

  • Does this approach work for you in your agency?
  • What difficulties has this caused you?
  • How do you/would you respond when a child discloses?
  • Please let me know your thoughts…   Leave a comment below or click here.


Recommended reading:


Related previous posts:

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© Jonny Matthew 2016



Disclosure of material connection: The above book link is an “affiliate link.” This means that if you click the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.