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Connect with children

This section has advice and examples particularly important to talking with children when assessing their safety.

See also the part Working with children for further advice about talking with children who are harmed by domestic violence.

Factors influencing the vulnerability of the child

When reviewing each immediate harm indicator in the safety assessment, consider whether a child in the household is particularly vulnerable to that harm. The definition for an immediate harm indicator may apply if a child is more vulnerable. Vulnerabilities mean that the child is less able to seek help or could be more easily harmed. Examples include, but are not limited, to the child:

  • being younger than age 5
  • having a significant diagnosed or apparent medical or mental health concern
  • having no access to community or not being visible in the community
  • having diminished developmental/cognitive capacity
  • having diminished physical capacity.

Talk with children to understand how safe they are

When you are speaking with a child about the male perpetrator, it is important to separate the behaviour from the person. This is particularly the case if he is the child’s father or they have a strong relationship. You need to be clear in your message that the father isn’t bad, but his behaviour means that other people in the house are not safe.

Lots of questions, one after the other, can be overwhelming for children. So try to break them up. Chat freely in between questions. Be natural and warm, and use your judgement about whether children need a break or a change of subject.

Practice consideration Conversation ideas
Ask about how they perceive the father using violence.
  • What do you like to do with your dad?
  • Is there anything you don’t like?
  • How do you know if Dad is angry or unhappy? What does he do?
  • What do you do when he ...?
Talk about what worries you. If a child tells you that they were present during an assault, ask them directly if they were hurt.
  • I’m worried that when you try to stop your dad hitting your mum, you might get hurt too.
  • When Paul hurt your mum, did you get hurt too? What did you do? What did he do? What did you think?
  • I’m worried that it might be hard for you to learn in school, because you are being woken up by fighting in your home.
Explore responsibility for the violence with the child. It may help to talk about everyone’s ‘job’ at home. You can expand on this to include other ‘jobs’ children may have, such as going to school, learning and playing. Use this language of ‘jobs’ to help children understand how the father’s violence gets in the way of them living the life of a normal, happy kid.
  • It’s not your job to keep Mum safe. It’s your dad’s job not to hurt your mum.
  • Tell me about what your job is at school.
  • An important job of kids is to play. Tell me about what sorts of things you like to do for play.
Ask the child about their relationship with their mother. Try to establish the kind of relationship they have now and what it has been like in the past.
  • What things do you like about Mum?
  • What kind of things do you like doing together?
  • Are there things you used to do together that you wished you still did?
  • No one deserves to be hurt. When your mum is hurt, this isn’t her fault, or your fault.
  • When Mum was hurt (or hit, kicked or pushed) what did she do? What did she say to you about it?
Ask the child about any new partner or household member.
  • What is your home like now Paul lives with you?
  • What has changed?
  • Is this better than before?
  • Have things with Mum changed since Paul moved in?
Talk to the child about who they feel safe with.
  • Is there anyone you talk to about what is happening at home or if you feel scared?
  • Are there any adults you like or trust?
  • Have there ever been any adults you trust? Where are they now?


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