Why trusted adults matter
As Child Abuse Prevention Month ends, we are reminded that the fight against this problem is far from over. When it comes to combating the issue, we look towards the lawmakers, enforcement agencies, educators, child advocates and helping organisations who are positioned to deal with the matter.
We support the implementation of policies and procedures that need to be put in place while seeking legislation that adequately serves to protect children from maltreatment. However, as we recognise the pervasiveness of the problem, we continue to be pressed to create awareness and more action items to effectively safeguard our young people from harm.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by all the information presented to us. Thinking about all the negative effects and complexities surrounding child abuse can leave people feeling helpless. As individuals, we ask ourselves: what can I do? How do I make a difference? What is my role in prevention?
Our job as individual members of the community is to be a “trusted adult”.
Trusted adults are the family members, caregivers, teachers, godparents and neighbours whom children look up to for guidance and support. Trusted adults are the ones who listen when a child has something important to say or something troubling to share.
These are the individuals who celebrate a child’s achievements while encouraging them to pursue their passions and embrace their talents. Trusted adults take the time to positively engage with a child as they explore what that child is interested in. The trusted adult focuses on the unique characteristics that help a child feel special by highlighting the good behaviours exhibited by that child.
These people are trusted because they remind a young person that there is only one of them in the world. Acknowledging that a child is uniquely special demonstrates that no one should ever hurt them on purpose. Ultimately, these adults are not only trusted, but they are safe. These are the people who are integral to a young person’s development.
The job of being a trusted, supportive, safe adult is arguably the most important role a person can have. Those who take on this responsibility are making an invaluable investment into our future. When children feel valued, they build stronger resiliencies and it means that they can find their voice.
Contrary to the adage “children should be seen and not heard”, having a trusted adult in a child’s life means that a child is able to safely speak up. It means that a young person is empowered while knowing that they do not have to handle difficult situations on their own.
Ultimately, it means that a child is less vulnerable. In the horrible event that there is abuse happening, having a trusted adult around means children can heal from trauma. Being there for a child in these ways is not only preventative but can change the trajectory of a young person’s life.
In terms of the heavy and overwhelming problem of child abuse in its many forms —physical, emotional, neglect, bullying, sexual, exploitation and peer-on-peer — if we take on the responsibility of being a trusted adult, we know that we are making a vital impact.
Essentially, the trusted adults are the soldiers that are on the front line of this battle. These are the unspoken heroes. During the close of Child Abuse Prevention Month, it seems fitting to thank all the trusted adults in our community. Each of you are sincerely appreciated for all you do to make a difference in the lives of our children.
• For information on our Legislative and Policy Agenda for Child Protection in Bermuda, please visit www.coalition.bm. To sign up your child up for free “Safety Matters” (preventative education) training, please visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/17nws97OzsDkW_jApJkl2rjJblMdNK6rNnj1g26mQd2M/edit
• Kelly Hunt is the executive director of the Coalition for the Protection of Children