Support for parents

As a parent, you may feel angry, worried, upset or afraid if you discover your child has been a victim or witness of crime. You may not have realised something had happened, and finding out your child has been affected by crime can be shocking and difficult to understand.

Just like young people, it’s important for parents to be able to share their concerns and fears too. If you talk to other parents, you may find their children have been through similar experiences which can be a great support. You might also be able to get help and support from your child’s school, from your GP, from religious leaders and communities, from your local authority family services team, and also from victims’ organisations such as Victim Support.

Remember, it’s important for your child’s safety to encourage them to talk to a trusted adult about the crime, think through whether to report to the police, and to take steps to make sure they don’t become a victim again.

Often if children become victims of crime, even if they don’t realise they are a victim, there can be tell-tale signs. Not all young people will react in the same way, and victims and witnesses of crime of all ages may go through different emotions, from shock and anger to denial and depression. Your child may have trouble sleeping, lose their appetite, feel scared or have panic attacks.

If you’re concerned about your child, you can contact Victim Support for free and confidential help.

Sometimes children do not even realise that they’ve been a victim of crime themselves, and therefore don’t know to ask their parents for help. They may think that what has happened isn’t serious enough to report, or they may have normalised the crime and think this is what happens to everyone.

Talking about what has happened may be really difficult for your child, and even if you have a good relationship with them, they may be too afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Children often worry about what their parents might think and how they might react, so they may not want to tell you about what has happened for fear of upsetting or worrying you. Your child may also be worried about getting into trouble if they tell you what has happened, particularly if they were ‘breaking the rules’ at the time of the crime – for example, if the crime took place in a park when they were told they could not go there.

It can also be increasingly difficult for your child to talk to you if the person who has committed the crime is known to them or your family. They may worry that they won’t be believed, may not want to upset you or they may have been threatened to keep quiet.

It’s important to encourage your child to talk.

  • Make sure your son or daughter knows they can talk to you.
  • Give them time and space and listen properly to what they say.
  • Don’t judge.
  • Ask them how you can help.
  • Find them other support that can help.

It’s also important to help your children think through and make their own decisions; don’t push them into decisions they may not want to make.

Remember, it doesn’t always have to be you they talk to. Talking about what has happened may be difficult enough for a young person, but talking to a parent might be harder than talking to another adult they trust. Let them know that if they would rather talk to someone else, that’s fine, and help them to arrange that conversation. Your support will mean a lot.

It’s important that your child has a network of trusted adults who they can talk to. These should be adults they feel safe and comfortable with, so it might be someone who has supported them before. If your child is not comfortable talking to someone they know, they can ask for help from a professional – such as a doctor, teacher or counsellor – or someone with specialist training in helping young victims of crime, such as a Victim Support worker.

People your child could talk to include:

  • other family members
  • teachers
  • doctors
  • a friend’s parent or carer
  • a school nurse or support worker
  • a Victim Support worker
  • a coach or leader of an activity group
  • a counsellor
  • religious leaders.

Remember to let your child know that however difficult it is, they will probably feel better just for talking about their feelings. It’s important they are not struggling on their own to cope with the effects of crime, and they understand that people who care about them will want to help.

If you’re worried about your child, a teacher can be a good person to talk to about your concerns. Research shows that children will often talk to a teacher about their worries, and although only 15% of children will report a crime to the police, 83% of children will tell a teacher. A good relationship with your child’s teacher can help you to support your child, and ensure school is a positive and safe place for them to go.

If your child has been a victim of crime, they may be worried about reporting it. Victim Support’s Children and Young People Services and other organisations are there to support them whether they report the crime or not, but reporting a crime can help in a lot of ways. It can mean the person responsible may get caught and stopped; it can prevent other young people from becoming victims; and it gives your child the chance to explain what happened.

If your son or daughter reports the crime to police, they will be asked to make a statement, which should be enough for police to start an initial investigation. They should be able to have an adult stay with them when making their statement. Depending on the type of crime, and if the offender is known or likely to reoffend, they may be arrested and questioned quite quickly.

You should be given a crime reference number, which you can use to find out what’s happening in the investigation. The police should keep you up to date with any developments, including whether there have been any arrests, what has happened to the offender, and whether the case will be going to court. If you can’t encourage your child to talk to police, they can still report the crime anonymously online through Fearless, the Crimestoppers website for children and young people.

Find out more about what you can do as a parent or carer to help your child.