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Talk with the child to assess their safety

Further reading

The advice in this section focuses on talking with children when assessing their safety. Go to the Working with a child with mental health issues part for more advice about talking with children about mental health and how it is currently impacting on them now as well as into the future.

Each child and young person has their own unique experience in the home. Some children may be more at-risk than others. Explore what safety looks like for each individual child in the home.

Think about the child’s unique needs. Consider their age, behaviours, temperament, relationships with caregivers, personal illness, disability and resilience when assessing safety. Explore the child’s relationship with their parents and family. Ask them how they would describe each of the people in their family. Explore protective factors as well as risks.

Explore also the child’s connection with friends, family and other safe adults in the community. Make sure it is clear who the child means when they talk about a safe person. Use visits with a child to look for opportunities to build connections for them with their family and community.

Be curious about the child’s daily life. Ask about the family’s routines ...who prepares meals, washes clothes, and helps with homework? This will help to learn more about what is creating worries for the child, and what is making the child feel safe.

Talk to the child about their worries. Are they the same things you’re worried about or are they different?

Practice prompt

Parental mental health issues can have varied and unpredictable impacts on children. Not all children will be affected in the same way. Do not assume that because a child is resilient or strong that they are safe.

Tools for talking with children

COPMI resources about different types of mental health issues — information for children and young people.

The Safety House Tool — use when talking to children about safety.

The Three Houses Tool — use to explore the child’s worries, strengths and hopes.

Kids Central Toolkit — access to additional tools and resources to support child-centred practice

St Luke’s Resources — explore their range of resources and cards you can use to talk to children and families.

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