Being a parent is a wonderful and rewarding experience - but sometimes it's not easy.
Most parents do everything they can to protect their children and make sure they're brought up in a loving and caring environment. But family life is never perfect, and from time to time it can test the best of parents.
If you're worried about your child, or are having some family difficulties, you should get some support. Knowing how to get help can make all the difference, especially to your child.
Keeping your child safe
If you want some advice about parenting, or need to speak to somebody in confidence about family problems you can contact:
- your local family centre for advice about how to deal with any problems you're having
- NSPCC - the leading children's charity working to prevent child abuse, visit their website for advice and support or contact them on 0808 8008 5000
- Family Lives - offers online forums, information on a range of topics and a freephone helpline 0808 800 2222
If you want to find a parenting support group in your area, some help with childcare or details of things to do as a family you should visit our online Family Services Directory.
You may also find our Safe Parenting Handbook useful.
The links below take you to useful advice about keeping your child safe and helping them to make the right choices.
Accidents are one of the main causes of childhood injury and death in the UK. Getting some advice on health and safety lets you know what dangers to look out for as your child grows up. The child accident prevention trust website contains lots of useful safety advice and you can browse by age group or common accident types. You can also do a safety quiz, answering some questions about each room in your home to find out if it's a safe haven or an accident waiting to happen.
It can be really distressing to find out that your child is being bullied. They're probably really worried about the situation as well. Before you approach your child, their school, or anyone else to talk about bullying you should visit the following websites. They contain lots of useful information about how to deal with different types of bullying, what to do next and how to keep your child safe.
- NSPCC - a leading children's charity, supporting children and their families who need some support to prevent abuse. Free helpline for adults concerned about a child 0808 800 5000.
- Bullying UK - part of the Family Lives Charity, produces guidance and factsheets on their website and runs online forums where you can chat to other families.
Child sexual exploitation
Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse, in which a young person is manipulated or forced into taking part in a sexual act. This could be as part of a seemingly consensual relationship, or in return for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or somewhere to stay.
The young person may think that their abuser is their friend, or even a boyfriend or girlfriend. However, the abuser may force the young person into dangerous situations, leading them to doing things they don't want to do.
This type of abuse could happen to any young person from any background. It happens to boys and young men as well as girls and young women. The victims of abuse are not at fault.
It can ruin children's lives and affect their siblings and the whole family. Knowing the signs and being aware of the support available can help to equip you with the knowledge to do something about it.
Ask yourself these questions about your child:
- Are they chatting online to people you have never met?
- Are they secretive about where they have been and who they have been with?
- Do they lack self confidence?
- Are they losing contact with family and friends of their own age, and associating with an older age group?
- Has there been a change in their mood or behaviour?
- Have you had concerns that they could be using drugs and/or alcohol?
- Have they begun a relationship with someone that you are concerned about?
- Have they been coming home with money, clothes, jewellery and mobile phones they can't explain properly?
- Have they started to skip school?
- Have they been missing from home?
- Are they staying out overnight?
How you can help your child
You may find the following online resources useful if you are concerned that your child is the victim of child sexual exploitation:
PACE - Parents against sexual exploitation is a charity that works alongside parents and carers of children who are at risk or are being sexually exploited. They have developed an online library for parents that includes information about:
- how to reduce the risk of sexual exploitation
- the internet and social media
- what to do if your child is missing
- how to gather information
- how to get help
- alcohol and drugs
- going to court
They also offer counselling, a secure online forum and a telephone helpline.
The NSPCC has a lot of useful information on their website about child sexual exploitation for worried parents and carers.
Dealing with the death of a child
The sudden and unexpected death of a child is life-changing for families and no parent ever expects that they will have to deal with it. There are national support groups that can offer you some support to deal with your grief such as Child Bereavement UK or the Child Death helpline.
Child death reviews
When a child has died unexpectedly the Safeguarding Children Board is responsible for looking at the circumstances around the death. This can involve speaking to parents, medical professionals and others who were responsible for the care of the child. This process can take several weeks or months before any decisions can be made. You can read more about it in this information leaflet for parents and carers.
Depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns
Young Minds UK is a charity that was set up to support children and young people through difficult times and their parents and carers. They offer confidential and professional support and advice if you are worried about the emotional wellbeing or behaviour of a child or young person in your care.
You should try to talk to your children about drugs and alcohol, and stay calm if you suspect your child may have used them. If you're sure there's a problem and your child is reluctant to talk, you can get in touch with a support group for advice. It's important to keep an open mind and try not to panic by encouraging your child to tell you what has led to them trying drugs. Most people who try drugs don't become addicted and won't suffer any long term effects to their health.
If you're worried about drugs, but don't know much about them you should look at the Talk to Frank website. They have an A-Z of the different types of drugs and the affects of them. You can also email or call to speak to a drugs adviser confidentially, before you talk to your child.
If you think that your child does have a problem with addiction, your support can make a big difference to them being able to deal with it. In Barnsley the following agencies support young people and their families with issues relating to drugs and alcohol:
- Young Addaction
- Barnsley Beacon
- Phoenix Futures
- Barnsley Substance Misuse Team 01226 4358601
- My Family Action call 01226 289846
Fostering, adoption and private fostering
Adoption can be an alternative for children who can't live with their own families. You can read more about the process of adoption in our website here. If you're interested in becoming an adoptive parent you can find out how to register and what's involved.Fostering
If you can offer a child a temporary home you may wish to consider fostering. You'll need to be able to provide them with a safe, caring and secure home until they can be reunited with their own family, or be adopted into another family. If your child is being looked after by a foster family this website will tell you more about
A private fostering arrangement is where a child is living with someone who is not an immediate member of their family and this is likely to be for longer than 27 days. If you're looking after a child in a private fostering arrangement it's important that you tell us about it.
Gangs and groups
The NSPCC estimates that one in six teenagers knows somebody who's involved in a gang. Children involved in gangs are frequently abused, exploited and put in dangerous situations. They're often scared to leave the gang and will need some help from adults to break free.
As part of a government led campaign to end gang violence they have set up a free and confidential telephone helpline for young people and parents. You can contact NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 and speak to a specially trained advisor.
Or download their guidance about gangs from their website.
The internet is amazing and your children can use it to play and learn, but you need to keep track of what they're doing online an make sure they're safe.
You should start with:
- exploring the online world together
- talking to your child about staying safe online
- managing the software you and your family use, with parental controls and passwords
- using a filter on your broadband to block any sites that you don't want your children to access
- agreeing rules about what's ok and what's not
For advice about keeping your children safe online check out the childnet international website.