Trigger warning: this article discusses themes of child abuse
I became a Mum twenty-five years ago.
In those early, tiring days of getting to know this little person, the daunting responsibility of providing an environment where this little baby could flourish and thrive was daunting.
I remember looking through a newborn gift bag from the hospital, filled with all kinds of baby products. There were testers and samples for everything – from creams to baby food to Tresillian sleep services, which all came in handy – especially the help with sleeping!
But for me – there was one brochure that was missing.
Let me explain.
For 14 years I had been working in our youth and young adult’s ministry at Hillsong. Amongst all the joys of seeing young people discover the life Jesus has for them, there were also times of heartache. I will never forget the times where young adults shared fragile and painful parts of their lives. It seemed that with adulthood came the language skills to articulate their distress and confidence to open up. Sometimes, childhoods were anything but a safe memory. Seeing these same young people take steps towards justice and healing remains one of my greatest memories and highlights.
And then I became a parent myself.
How was I going to protect this little person – from the harms that exist?
Who do I trust? How do I teach my toddler about ‘safe & unsafe touch’. What about playdates and new friends. (And don’t even get me started about the plethora of sleepover parties.) What was the balance between hypervigilance and being too trusting?
I kept thinking – why don’t we talk about this stuff? Why isn’t it mainstream and normal – why isn’t there information easily available in the magazines I read? Why wasn’t it in the baby bag with all the other info?
I am still asking this question.
It’s not enough to hope that nothing bad happens to your child.
We must enquire, learn, and at times deal with the limitations of our own painful past – to become skilled at navigating the enormous responsibilities and complex issues of parenting.
Abuse. Domestic Violence. Neglect. Predatory internet behavior. The confidence to confront – these are not easy topics to talk about.
But we must.
This week our team and guest contributors will present a range of blogs as part of National Child Protection Week in Australia. This focus week is an initiative of NAPCAN, an organization that started in the 1980’s – to address the issues of abuse and neglect, that were taboo at this time.
If you are an adult reading this post, you know that ‘your childhood’ is with you for a long, long time. The good and the painful.
It’s the right of every parent to know what’s ok, what’s “off’ and if something is wrong – what to do and where to go for help. Our kids are counting on us to not feel any sense of shame or be fearful. It’s the also the responsibility of the greater community – such as relatives, grandparents, friends, workmates and volunteers – to also know how to keep children and young people safe.
As a church community we must all take on the responsibility to keep children and young people safe. Please familiarize yourself with our Safe Church standards at Hillsong: hillsong.com/australia/safechurch/parentinformation
Together we can ensure that the generations are stronger – and safer – so they can flourish.
We hope these blogs start the conversation and point you to resources that are necessary and helpful.
Donna is an Executive Pastor at Hillsong Church and has been on staff for over thirty six years. She is responsible for Hillsong’s national engagement in the Government, Faith and Not-For-Profit sectors in Australia.