Child Abuse

Resources for Parents & Caregivers

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If your child has been abused or may have been abused, I'm so sorry that you're going through this and hope you get all of the information and support that you and your child need.

Here I provide some basic resources for parents and caregivers – not only those of you with children who have experienced abuse, but all parents and caregivers, including those who themselves had harmful unwanted or abusive experiences as children.

The effects of child abuse can be increased or decreased by key relationships in the child's life. More than anyone else (including therapists), parents and caregivers can help children recover from abuse and its effects.

If you want immediate information, including on how to find professional help for a child or adolescent, see the National Child Traumatic Stress Network's How to Find Help page, and especially their Network Members page, which lists centers and clinics all around the US, each of which will know of excellent resources in their area.

Although I am a parent myself, working professionally with children and parents is not my specialty. (I work with adults who were abused as children.) So I've consulted with trusted colleagues who have specialized training and years of experience working with abused children and their caregivers. Below are their recommendations.

First, here are two relatively brief and free resources on the web:

Book and Video Recommendations

Your Body Belongs to You, by Cornelia Maude Spelman and Teri Weidner (Illustrator). Albert Whitman & Co, 2000. (This book is for parents and teachers of young children, and more focused on prevention.)

Children and Trauma: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, by Cynthia Monahan. Jossey-Bass, 1993.

How long does it hurt? A guide to recovering from incest and sexual abuse for teenagers, their friends, and their families (Revised edition), by Cynthia Mather, Kristina Debye, and Judy Wood (Illustrator). Jossey-Bass, 2004.

Treating Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents: How to Foster Resilience through Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency, by Margaret Blaustein & Kristine Kinniburgh. Guilford, 2010. Written for therapists, but can help parents to understand the developmental impacts of trauma, and to understand that all behaviors, however troubling, are functional attempts to adapt to trauma. Its flexible treatment framework supports parents' efforts to bring safety and resilience into their children's lives.

Handbook for Treatment of Attachment-Trauma Problems in Children, by Beverly James. The Free Press, 1994.

Trauma in the Lives of Children: Crisis and Stress Management Techniques for Teachers, Counselors, and Student Service Professionals, by Kendall Johnson. Hunter House, 1998.

RealLife Heroes: A Life Storybook for Children, by Richard Kagan. Haworth, 2004.

The Traumatized Child This video series, created by Cavalcade Productions, features Dr. Margaret Blaustein, with whom I have worked and respect very highly, and three of her colleagues. All have years of experience as therapists with abused children and their caregivers, and as trainers of therapists doing this work. There are three videos in the series, which can be purchased or rented individually or as a set: Understanding the Traumatized Child, Parenting the Traumatized Child, and Teaching the Traumatized Child.

Appropriate vs. Concerning Sexual Behavior in Children

This is a question that many parents find themselves confronting at some point, if not concerning their own children then their children's friends and playmates.

I highly recommend the booklet Understanding children's sexual behaviors: What's natural and healthy. It's by Dr. Toni Cavanagh Johnson, an internationally respected expert, only 26 pages long, written in simple language for all parents (educators, etc.), and cheap ($2.50). You can order it there.

See also, Do Children Sexually Abuse Other Children, a free online 'guidebook' published by Stop It Now.

Books on Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Here are books that parents can read and discuss with their 4 to 8 year old children:

Child with Sexual Behavior Problems

If you are the parent or caregiver of a child or teen with sexual behavior problems, see Children's Behaviors by Stop It Now, and the organization's the Circles of Safety program.

The Safer Society Foundation has resources for parents of children with sexual behavior problems, including the For Families page of their online bookstore, and the Association for the Treatment of Sex Abusers (ATSA) has an online fact sheet on Children with Sexual Behavior Problems.