We know that some of these conversations may be new to you and your child. As you two work through this material, especially the parts that may feel new or uncomfortable, you are providing opportunities to deepen your trust. Through our shared experiences at Freedom Forward, we have learned that there are some ways to help create and sustain that trust so that you and your child are able to have important conversations safely.
Your Body Language Matters
Did you know that research suggests that more than 80% of communication is actually nonverbal? Your child will pick up on your facial expressions, gestures, tone and pitch (paralinguistics), body language and posture, personal space (proxemics), eye gaze, touch (haptics), and general appearance. So, think about getting yourself relaxed and ready before you sit down with your child—creating a warm and inviting tone will matter.
As you work through the conversations and activities, thank your child for their answers and ideas. There may be times when things feel uncomfortable and that’s ok! If they share information that you disagree with, try not to over-correct or tell them that they are wrong. Instead, focus on giving them additional information and encouraging them to keep learning. Your job is to create an open environment where your child will feel safe continuing the conversation later on.
Listen and Respond Without Judgement
Do your best to listen and respond without judgment. Your child may have witnessed a friend in need or experienced situations you do not know about. If they feel judged when they share, it will be hard for them to share things again. Here are some statements that will show your child you value what they are saying: “I hear you,” “Thank you for sharing this with me," “You have every right to feel that way,” or “I get that.”
Meet Your Child Where They Are
You may want to adapt some of our activities based on who your child is and where they are in their own personal learning journey. As you share information with your child, ask them where they are in their thoughts. Depending on what they’re thinking about and how they’re feeling, you may want to ask them how they would like to continue this conversation and what would help them feel comfortable. You might find that your child giggles or looks away when they are uncomfortable. This is absolutely normal. Others may not react much at all. If you notice something has triggered them, this is an opportunity to pause and ask if they know what made them giggle, look away, sigh, or roll their eyes (or whatever their reaction was). This can help them identify their triggers and begin to label their emotions.
Power Over Fear
As you and your child learn about human trafficking, there may be moments that feel a little scary, overwhelming, or confusing. They may think of people they have seen who could have been exploited and begin to have concerns. Remind your child that this is about developing skills to make them powerful protectors of themselves and others. Our goal is not to create fear but rather to give tools for action. As they have concerns or fears, try to channel those into action plans. You might ask them, “Who have we identified who we can talk to?” or “What resources do we have?” or “What do you think would be a good next step?” Show them that they have developed helpful answers and that you are right there with them to help, too!