Guide to protecting children

Your guide to putting children first

Everyone has a part to play in looking out for and protecting children. And by acting, perhaps when no one else will, you can make a world of difference to a child.

Look out for changes in a child’s personality or behaviour

Is a child you know behaving differently? Are they quieter than usual? Do they seem anxious or worried? Changes in a child’s behaviour can be a sign that something isn’t right. If you would like to talk through a concern about a child you can call Parentline on 08000 28 22 33 or text us any queries you have on 07860 022 844.

Be the one a child can talk to

Children sometimes struggle with problems because they have no trusted adult to turn to. Make time for a child who wants to talk about home, school or friends. If a child shares any worries, however minor they seem, make time to listen. Let them know that talking is always better than keeping quiet and that you care. Some children don’t want to talk face-to-face. They might prefer to speak or chat online to someone confidentially at ChildLine: 0800 1111 or:

Be there for families under stress

Parenting can be hugely rewarding. But everyone who cares for a child can find it challenging from time to time. If you notice that a family is struggling, ask yourself whether there is anything you can do to help. Or tell them about Parentline where they can get advice - 08000 28 22 33.

Don’t turn a blind eye

You see a toddler wondering unsupervised and alone. You witness a parent or carer verbally or physically abusing a child in a public place. What do you do? In situations such as these it’s all too easy to assume someone else will do something. But what if they don’t? Here are possible ways you can act. Being on the spot, you’ll be best placed to decide exactly what to do. But whatever you do, do something if it becomes clear that otherwise a child could come to harm.

If you believe a child is in immediate danger - call the police on 999.

Directly support

A stressed parent or carer may welcome an offer of practical help. For example with bagging up their shopping, or distracting their child while they do it. That could be just what’s needed to calm a situation. Show empathy. Most people will appreciate help, but not if it comes with judgemental comments. If you see a young child wondering alone, you could ask them if they need help. It may be best to tell other adults who are around what you plan to do first, so they don’t misinterpret your intentions.


While a parent or carer is losing their temper with a child they may react badly to any attempt by you to get involved. So, if you know that you will have an opportunity to talk to them later once tempers have cooled, and the child isn’t at risk of immediate harm, it may be best to delay.


Not everyone has the confidence to get involved directly. And sometimes, for example because they are busy looking after children themselves, it’s not an option. If you’re worried about a child but don’t think you can get involved yourself, tell someone who can – a teacher, shop manager, or whoever is best placed to help.