Keeping children safe
Caring for your children through domestic and family violence or online abuse can be very challenging.
Online safety planning with children
There are ways to help your children stay connected online while also keeping them, and you, safe.
An offline safety plan is an important first step. Work with your case manager to develop a safety plan, which will help ensure the person abusing you does not become more upset and dangerous while you are making safety changes.
Online safety rules for children
You can work together to stay safe online. The best way to do this is by talking with your children about rules you can all follow to help keep you safe.
For younger children you can set the rules.
For older children and teens, let them help you develop them. It is important that they play a role in helping you all feel safe and to empower them.
Staying safe rules could include:
- Not posting any locations online or sharing their location with anyone. This includes addresses, suburb, school, clubs, shops you visit, and friends or family you visit.
- No posting photos online for now — this is because photos often contain lots of detail that could make it easy for the abuser to identify your location.
- No ‘checking in’ or checking anybody else in.
- Nobody tagging family members online until things are safer.
- Turning off location services on devices until things are safer. This will ensure photos do not have location information embedded in them, and that the devices (and your location) cannot be tracked easily. This might mean not playing games like Pokemon Go in the short term. The most important thing is that you are all safe.
- Become familiar with the apps and programs your children use and how to ensure they are safer. Look at the eSafety Guide for information on privacy settings and safety information.
- Using privacy settings on all social media accounts. See the eSafety Guide and online safety tips for more information.
- Blocking calling displays on all devices. See our 'how to' videos for help with this.
- Going through the online safety checklist with older children and teens to make sure all devices and sites are being used safely.
Children need to know
- There are ‘people who care for them and can protect them. It can help to have a list of trusted family and friends with contact numbers and emails handy. Keep this list in safe place that the abusive person does not have access to,
- Safe ways to behave around the person who is being abusive, and how the abusive behaviour might escalate. For example, if the abuser wants to ‘friend’ them on social media that might be unavoidable. Instead, you might set up a new account to limit what that person sees.
- What information they should not share with the abuser or people who know the abuser. For example, not sharing your address, when you go out, who you are in contact with. Children and teens may need you to help them practice answers to predictable questions to help keep them safe.
- Safe ways to communicate with others. This might include using messaging apps you agree on as long as you know all the contacts on the apps. Also, how to hide the app if the abuser is near or has access to their device.
- Who they can talk to about how they feel. Kids Helpline and eHeadspace are valuable contacts that offer free and private counselling as needed.
If possible, it is also helpful to have a separate device that your child or teen can use at home and at your partner’s house — even if it is a very old device—so they can safely keep their contacts and communication on the home device.
Remember, be careful if your partner has recently given your children new phones or tablets and insists that they take them with you when they return to your home. For more information see our online safety checklist or contact 1800RESPECT.
Support for children
Children living with domestic violence may need extra support to feel safe and positive about the future. Cocooning them in love, keeping routines the same and surrounding them with kind, caring people will help. There are simple ways to do this.
Find a counselling or support service
You can find a range of counselling and support services for kids, teenagers and young adults.
Tell your child none of the violence is their fault and they are loved — and keep telling them. Allow them to talk about the violence if they want to. Keep your language simple and do not include more detail than they need to know. You can explain that the person who was violent made some poor choices… and that nothing the child did caused the behaviour. Try not to be overly critical of the abuser, as this can make a child feel more confused.
Understanding the safety plan
Work with your case manager to help create an age-appropriate safety plan for your child. This will reassure them that there is a plan for their safety. You could draw or paint a picture of the plan together, type it up on the computer, or, for younger children, act it out using toys.
Routines, rituals and feelings
Keep as much of the daily routine the same as possible. This includes any bedtime routines, TV shows they like to watch, food they like etc. Remember that your children will have a range of feelings that may come out at different times — they may be confused about their feelings for their dad and for you. This is normal. Help them label their feelings gently, with words, pictures or drawings. Reassure them that they are right to have these feelings, and that they will be okay.
Your child’s behaviour may be affected by the stress and their confused feelings.
Depending on their age and personality, they may:
- hit or yell
- have extreme reactions to small things
- show less feelings or reactions than you would expect or withdraw
- cry more
- become very anxious
- bed wet
- have nightmares
- go backwards in some of their development, learning and social skills
- use alcohol or drugs
- be more defiant
- avoid school
- have trouble with friends
Try to stay calm and show them love with words and kindness, even when it seems very difficult. They are more likely to settle if you can stay calm. Reassure them that they are loved and things will get better.
If they have many outbursts that are hard for you to manage, seek professional help through your GP or case worker. The Raising Children Network has good tips to help manage behaviour. You can also take a look at our advice for parents and carers.
Your child’s kindergarten, pre-school, childcare or school will be able to provide support for your child. If you feel comfortable, let them know that your child has some extra worries and seek extra nurturing and understanding for them.
Children and especially teenagers, may defy limits being placed on their social media use. They may not understand why restrictions, even temporary ones, are necessary, or the consequences of posting sensitive information online. It may be tempting to give in to their demands but remember, following the rules will help keep all of you safe
You will find more helpful advice on how to have tricky conversations with children and teens in the parents section of our site and on the Raising Children’s Network site.
Helpful contacts for children and young people
If your child is:
- at school, TAFE or university you can seek support through their education provider, if you feel comfortable doing so. Talk to the welfare officer, counsellor or student well-being coordinator. Schools often have counsellors or psychologists your child can access free of charge
- aged 8 to 25 contact Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800). They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, free of charge. Counsellors can also chat online at Kids Helpline.
- aged 12 to 25 eHeadspace offers free online counselling for young people aged 12 to 25 and their families.
- aged 12 to 25 Headspace offers free or low cost face-to-face support for young people aged 12 to 25, and their families. Centres are located around Australia: contact the centre near you directly for an appointment.