NSPCC Disclosure of abuse

Let children know you’re listening

Helping adults respond to children disclosing abuse

We’ve created evidence-informed resources to help adults ensure children always feel listened to.

Watch our animation on responding to a child's disclosure of abuse

Follow our tips

Show you care, help them open up
Give your full attention to the child or young person and keep your body language open and encouraging. Be compassionate, be understanding and reassure them their feelings are important. Phrases such as ‘you’ve shown such courage today’ help.

Take your time, slow down
Respect pauses and don’t interrupt the child – let them go at their own pace. Recognise and respond to their body language. And remember that it may take several conversations for them to share what’s happened to them.

Show you understand, reflect back
Make it clear you’re interested in what the child is telling you. Reflect back what they’ve said to check your understanding – and use their language to show it’s their experience.

Research to help improve a child’s experience of disclosure

Our previous research has shown that adults don’t always recognise, understand or react appropriately when a child or young person starts to tell them about experiences of abuse and that this can mean that the child doesn’t get the support they need (Allnock and Miller, 2013)

We wanted to find out how adults who work with children can make sure they are hearing the child’s disclosures of abuse so we:

    • consulted with children to find out their needs and experiences
    • carried out a survey, focus groups and interviews with adults who work with children to find out how we can help them better respond to disclosures of abuse
    • looked at the existing evidence on the topic.

Authors: H. Baker, P. Miller, E. Starr, S. Witcombe-Hayes and C. Gwilym Published: 2019

Key findings from the research

Adults told us they aren’t always confident about knowing what to say and do if a child starts to disclose.

Through our research we have identified that it’s helpful for children and young people in the moment of disclosure if adults use appropriate interpersonal skills to make it clear they are listening and taking them seriously.


“This is the most sensitive and hardest part of the child protection journey. Our skills can either open up a child or close them down… [it’s] critical we do things right by them at their most vulnerable moment.”

Education professional


Please cite as: Baker, H. et al (2019) Let children know you’re listening: the importance of an adult’s interpersonal skills in helping to improve the child’s experiences of disclosure. London: NSPCC.