Not many people know I volunteer for Childline, so I have insider knowledge of its value for children - and for parents.
I know it’s a safe space for young people to talk about their understanding of their world and to ask the questions that trouble them.
Chatting to Childline is like a trial run for them to talk through what’s on their mind or rehearse what they want to say before speaking to their parents or another trusted adult.
In my day-to-day life, I have often dropped a hint about Childline to other parents and guardians, or asked something like, “How would you feel if you heard or knew your child had contacted Childline?”
I must say, some of the answers were difficult to hear. Replies included:
“My kids know if they need to talk, I am here for them.”
“Our house is an open one, we talk about things all the time.”
“I would not allow a stranger to talk to my child, you never know what trouble they will bring to the house.”
“That service is for abuse, my kids are not abused.”
Changing the Narrative
When I hear these responses, I make every effort to enlighten those I am with to fully understand what Childline actually is and does to help children.
I continue the discussion, saying something like: “What if Childline works because it guides the child to open up to you? I imagine they (at Childline) will ask the child how did they hear about the service and might tell the child that the person that nominated Childline could be the best person to talk to?”
In a roundabout way, we always redirect the child to talk to the adult within their own lives that they trust and feel most comfortable with.
When the service is explained this way, I am happy to say that many parents and guardians have a better understanding and agree it might be a good idea.
The Support of Childline
Calls about sexuality, relationships, bereavement, sadness, happiness, anger, loneliness, sex, masturbation, abuse, current events, illness, disability etc. can be very difficult for a child and we always acknowledge their bravery in reaching out and being willing to talk about what is going on for them.
How much easier would it be for them if their parent or guardian had told them about Childline and they were safe in the knowledge that they had their blessing to contact our service first before sharing their worries with them? Imagine the trust that would build between parent and child…
Childline IS NOT and will NEVER take the place of a trusted adult in the life of a child. We are only here to listen to a child talking about whatever is happening to them so that when they open up to you, they will have the skills and words they need to relay their feelings.
Childline can offer a positive engagement between an adult and child and, with luck, this experience can be replicated when they speak to an adult they trust.
As a volunteer, I know the value of having one good adult in the life of a child. If that adult is a parent or guardian, it is even better. Children will talk to you about anything but sometimes they might want to have a trial run first…….and that’s the value of Childline.