When your child tells you they were abused

Learn about: When your child tells you they were abused from Maggie Kline, LMFT,...
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When your child tells you they were abused

If your child comes to you and tells you that they've been molested, or sexually frightened by someone that they know or someone that they don't know, first thing to do is to believe them. It's very important. So often it's shocking to the parent as well, because most children are molested by someone they know. It could be a coach or a teacher or a religious figure, somebody in authority. And so often the parent is in such disbelief, they go, "oh, that can't be. That person was our friend or was our neighbor." And then the child will shut down. Very important to believe them, to listen to them, to find out what happened. And if there was something like physical, medical, or some sort of violent act or penetration, they need professional help. You should take them to a therapist who specializes in working with children and understands children and can help them through this. If the child was sexually frightened and they actually escaped without harm, still their nervous system is pretty shocked. So it's a wonderful opportunity really to help them to feel how they escaped without harm, to feel their body boundaries, to tell you what they said and did, to show you what they wished they said or did if they were older or had a stronger voice, and to pay attention to their body reactions until they're able to allow themselves to release the stress. That may mean that they might start to tremble. Their teeth may start to chatter as they're telling you. As they tell you a little bit more about how they ran away, you can have them show you how they ran away. if they say they pushed with their hands, you can have them show you how they pushed with their hands. And have them go through it in slow motion and feel their strength. And really praise them for their defensive response. And help them. Some of the issues that they come up with that they need to know that it wasn't their fault. That the adult was the one who did something wrong. Because very often children idolize adults. And if they haven't had experience with adults that have ever hurt them, they think they did something wrong. So it's very important, they need to know that adult needs to be stopped, that you're so thankful that they're safe and that they told you. That was a very courageous thing to do. If the sexual trauma was a violent act and they're more than just frightened - there was penetration, there was tearing, there's something that needs a doctor's attention - or if it had happened within the family itself, the child will definitely need to seek a professional's help. But be sure you find someone who specializes in working with children. Because it's different working with children who have been molested than working with an adult. Very important.

Learn about: When your child tells you they were abused from Maggie Kline, LMFT,...


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Maggie Kline, LMFT

School Psychologist & Therapist

Maggie Kline has been a marriage, family, and child therapist for almost 30 years, and is a retired school psychologist.  After beginning her professional career as a teacher in 1970, Maggie has continued to garner vast experience with children of all ages from pre-schoolers through teens. She uses Somatic Experiencing (SE) with individuals, couples and families in psychotherapy. She also integrates SE with art, dream work and play when helping youngsters recover from trauma. Maggie is a senior faculty member for the SE Trauma Institute, currently teaching on five continents. She has co-authored two books (listed below) with Peter A. Levine which have been translated into 11 languages,  and has also written "It Won't Hurt Forever", which was published in Mothering  Magazine in 2002.  Most recently, Maggie has originated two seminars for professionals who help traumatized children:  "SE for Kids, A Games-Based Approach" and "Conscious Connections, Providing Reparative Opportunities for Healthy Attachment". She has presented her work in schools and agencies, at conferences, and in mass disaster settings such as the Southeast Asian Tsunami and the Oslo Massacre.

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