safety planning with children

Safety Planning With Children

Being in an abusive situation can feel incredibly scary and isolating, and if children are involved – even indirectly witnessing the abusive – it can become a lot more complicated and dangerous. A parent’s instinct is to make sure their child is safe – but how can you do this best if your abusive partner is unpredictable, or manipulative?

All of our advocates at The Hotline are equipped to help you safety plan for you and your children during any stage in your relationship. Based on what you’re going through, we can help assess the best plans of action and brainstorm different options with you – even when you’re feeling out of options.

Planning for Violence in the Home
If you are in an abusive relationship, a safety plan should include ways that your children can stay safe when violence is happening in your home. It’s key to remember that if the violence is escalating, you should avoid running to the children because your partner may hurt them as well

  • Teach your children when and how to call 911
  • Instruct them to leave the home if possible when things begin to escalate, and where they can go
  • Come up with a code word that you can say when they need to leave the home in case of an emergency  — make sure that they know not to tell others what the secret word means
  • In the house: Identify a room they can go to when they’re afraid and something they can think about when they’re scared
  • Instruct them to stay out of the kitchen, bathroom and other areas where there are items that could be used as weapons
  • Teach them that although they want to protect their parent, that they should never intervene
  • Help them to make a list of people that they are comfortable talking and expressing themselves to
  • Enroll them in a counseling program (local service providers often have children’s programs)

Planning for Unsupervised Visits
If you have separated from an abusive partner and are concerned for your children’s safety when they visit your ex, developing a safety plan for while they are at their home can be beneficial.

  • Brainstorm with your children (if they are old enough) to come up with ways that they can stay safe using the same model as you would for your own home. Have them identify where they can get to a phone, how they can leave the house, and who they can go to.
  • If it’s safe to do, send a cell phone with the children to be used in emergency situations — this can be used to call 911, a neighbor or you if they need aid

Planning for Safe Custody Exchanges

  • Avoid exchanging custody at your home or your partner’s home
  • Meet in a safe, public place such as a restaurant, a bank/other area with lots of cameras, or even near a police station
  • Bring a friend or relative with you to the exchanges, or have them make the exchange
  • Perhaps plan to have your partner pick the children up from school at the end of the day after you drop them off in the morning – this eliminates the chances of seeing each other
  • Emotional safety plan as well – figure out something to do before the exchange to calm any nerves you’re feelings, and something after to focus on yourself or the kids, such as going to a park or doing a fun activity

Planning for After You Leave

  • Alert anyone you can about the situation: school authorities like the counselor, receptionist, teachers and principal, sports instructors, and other caretakers
  • Talk to these people about what’s going on, EX. If you have a protective order or restraining order, who is allowed to pick them up, etc.

How to Have These Conversations

Let your child know that what’s happening is not their fault and that they didn’t cause it. Let them know how much you love them and that you support them no matter what. Tell them that you want to protect them and that you want everyone to be safe, so you have come up with a plan to use in case of emergencies. It’s important to remember that when you’re safety planning with a child, they might tell this information to the abusive partner, which could make the situation more dangerous (ex. “Mom said to do this if you get angry.”) When talking about these plans with your child, use phrases such as “We’re practicing what to do in an emergency,” instead of “We’re planning what you can do when dad/mom becomes violent”

If you have any questions about safety planning or want an advocate’s help in developing a personalized safety plan for your child, give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

12 replies
  1. Anonymous says:

    I think its great that we have the resource to plan a safe get away with our children. my children have been through so much it’s hard to imagine it getting worse but it has. I’m in a nasty relationship and trying hard to get my kids out of here safely. emotional , physical, you name it my winner has inflicted so much nasty evil and intentional harm that I don’t know how I could not have seen his act … was just that… to everyone else he pretends to be human… the fact is he is a MONSTER… JEALOUS OF ME< MY KIDS AND my job…. I want to say thank you to all the supporters and the NDVHotline… for makng me feel a lil safer knowing you are there….

    Anonymous

    • HotlineAdmin_RF says:

      Anonymous,
      Thank you so much for contributing to our blog community. I am so glad to see that you have reached out to the hotline and thank you so much for your words of appreciation. We are always so glad to see that you find the blogs, resources and support helpful in your own life. It sounds as though its been a really traumatic experience, and I can hear the strength and conviction in your words. We are always hear to help support and further plan with you if you need any more assistance.
      Feel free to reach out to our 24 hour, anonymous and confidential hotline at 800-799-7233 at any time. If you need any resources in your area or just a safe space to communicate, we are always here.
      Take care.
      Hotline Advocate RF

  2. mrw says:

    This site has been very helpful I have found myself being abused throughout my marriage and in return became abusive back thinking I could deal with things on my own and the situation I faced with my wife spun out of control landing me in jail and unable to even speak with my kids and them being forced to live in an abusive relationship with their mother and grandmother almost a hundred miles away I should have set my pride aside long ago and seeked the help needed for my children my concern is now they don’t listen to anyone cause they’ve been taught not to by their mother. Just because women are more often the abused doesn’t mean they aren’t abusive. Yes I have abused my wife trying to stop her from abusing me and the kids that doesn’t justify my actions nor hers reach out for help don’t make decisions on your own there’s people who can shed light on things and help you compromise seek counseling before its too late.

    • HotlineAdmin_VG says:

      Hi mrw,

      I’m glad you’ve found our blog helpful. It sounds like such an awful situation that you and your children have been put through. Abuse is a pattern of behavior to maintain power and control in a relationship. Anyone can be a victim of abuse, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, creed, or socioeconomic level. You can also say that you’re not okay with your behavior and that you were still a victim of abuse. No victim is perfect and many victims react in ways that they normally wouldn’t have because of the circumstances of the abuse.

      I’m glad you’re reaching out for help. If you would like to talk to one of our advocates about your situation, please call 1-800-799-7233. We’re here 24/7, completely confidential and anonymous.

      Take care,
      Hotline Advocate VG

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