AdobeStock_247295390.jpeg

Supporting the Child Who Did Wrong

Parents who discover their child has sexually violated a sibling find themselves in uncharted territory. Any talk between parents and teens or preteens about sexuality is awkward; parenting after a child who has crossed a line and needs to do something about it can feel like crossing hot lava or treading on the proverbial thin ice. It’s a very difficult task, there’s little guidance available, and parents may have no way to ask. If the child has already grown and left home, the task isn’t much easier. 

 

Some of the basic situations and conversations that parents have to navigate include:

  • Letting the child know that the parent has learned about their sexual misbehavior

  • Conversations around the need for treatment, finding treatment, choosing a provider

  • Interactions regarding the criminal justice system–reporting to police or responding to police, hiring a lawyer, court appearances, putting up bail

  • Talking about the needs of the child who was hurt, which may include the need to remove the child who harmed them from the home

  • Concerns about the offending child’s mental health and risk of suicide

 

Unfortunately there’s no GPS to tell parents what to say or what to do next. But the following guidelines may help provide at least a map and compass.

Additional Resources

Do:

  • Keep your own emotions under control, as much as possible

  • Show care and concern for their personal feelings and welfare

  • Let them know they’re not alone, that other young people have done things like this and learned to do better

  • Reassure them there are people out there who can help

  • Let them know you won’t abandon them, even if they have to leave the home

  • Reassure that you will always love and support them–even if you hate what they did

  • Acknowledge you don’t know everything about them or what they did or what to do next

  • Affirm that what they did does not define who they are or negate their good qualities

  • Ask how they are feeling (even if they don’t respond)

  • Ask if they have tried or have thoughts of harming themselves

  • Help them find other supportive adults

Don’t:

  • Ask why they did it

  • Expect a lot of empathy, for yourself or the sibling they hurt

  • Get sucked into arguments about who to believe or what did or did not happen

  • Use stigmatizing labels (pervert, sex offender, child molester, rapist, etc)