How to work with different ages

How to work with different ages:

Content of workshops and lessons needs to be age appropriate and relevant to the lives of the children and young people. Understanding the context and development stage of the group that you are working with is an important first step to tailoring the prevention programme to meet their needs. Children of all ages can experience forms of Violence Against Women and Girls so it is important that ways are found to engage them in education to stop it.

Early years (0-5):

Working with very young children can be developed through nursery and early years education. There are ways to engage very young children through reading relevant books, developing respectful play and talking about friendship and what it means to be ‘me’.  Activities can focus on gently raising awareness of child abuse, domestic violence and start to build the child’s social skills. With this age group work with parents, carers and families through toddlers groups and health visitors can provide good opportunities to learn about abuse and intervene early if there are any signs of harm.

Top Tips for Early Years:

  1. Start early: It is never too early to engage in education to stop Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Although it may feel like a very adult subject there are ways of talking and learning about VAWG that are appropriate to such a young age. It is also important to remember that some small children will be experiencing child abuse, domestic violence, FGM and sexual bullying.
  2. Talk about hurting: Young children are starting to develop their vocabulary and words like violence, abuse and sex will probably not be understood. Therefore talk about being hurt and feeling sad, or angry or scared. Helping children to understand their own feelings and to know who they can talk to if they are upset is important.
  3. Creativity and play: Creating art work, drawing, drama and creativity are a great way to explore difficult concepts. This can give children opportunities to express their feelings, learn about abuse and think about what it means to be them. Playing with toys and games can help develop children’s social skills, provide opportunities to challenge gender norms, roles and expectations and build emotional literacy.
  4. Read together: Reading about abuse, feelings and identity can be a good way to encourage children to learn about violence against women and girls.
  5. Warning signs: Children at this age may be experiencing domestic violence in their family, be neglected, abused or at risk of FGM. At this age you can look out for the following warning signs:
  • Physical injuries
  • Use of sexual words or actions that you do not expect
  • Failure to engage with other children or adults
  • Parent or carer failing to engage with child
  • Poor appearance and delayed development

Secondary years:

Working with secondary aged children provides opportunities to think about the intimate relationships that they may be starting to form and to prevent violence in the future. Secondary schools, Pupil Referral Units, Youth Centres, Youth Offending Teams and Girl Guiding and Scouts clubs are great opportunities to engage young people in prevention education programmes.

Top Tips for Teenage Years:

  1. Safety: Always prioritise the safety of the children that you are working with. Follow the local child protection policy and procedure. Ensure that you respond, reassure and report any disclosures or incidences or concerns that you have of children.
  2. Consider consent: The concept of consent is important to understand at this age, that everyone has the right to say no and to be listened to. Activities can explore how to ask and give consent.
  3. Active participation: Encourage children and young people to take an active role to stop Violence Against Women and Girls. This could be through running a campaign, reviewing policies, fund raising for a local support service. It is also important to think about the role of bystanders and how young people can safely intervene to stop the violence.
  4. Real relationships: At this age some young people will be forming their own intimate relationships. They may experience abuse within their relationships and need to find opportunities to think about this and seek support. Use case studies of real relationships and explore them through stories, film and drama to discuss abuse, power and control.
  5. Warning signs: Young people at this age are at risk of domestic violence, teenage relationship abuse, FGM, forced marriage, sexual violence and exploitation. A list of warning signs for each form of violence are within the fact sheets on this website. Here are some specific things to look out for at this age, taken from the NSPCC Respect and Protect programme:
  • underage sexual activity
  • inappropriate sexual or sexualised behaviour
  • sexually risky behaviour, ‘swapping’ sex
  • repeat sexually transmitted infections
  • in girls, repeat pregnancy, abortions, miscarriage
  • receiving unexplained gifts or gifts from unknown sources
  • having multiple mobile phones and worrying about losing contact via mobile
  • having unaffordable new things (clothes, mobile) or expensive habits (alcohol, drugs)
  • changes in the way they dress
  • going to hotels or other unusual locations to meet friends
  • seen at known places of concern
  • moving around the country, appearing in new towns or cities, not knowing where they are
  • getting in/out of different cars driven by unknown adults
  • having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • contact with known perpetrators
  • involved in abusive relationships, intimidated and fearful of certain people or situations
  • hanging out with groups of older people, or anti-social groups, or with other vulnerable peers
  • associating with other young people involved in sexual exploitation
  • recruiting other young people to exploitative situations
  • truancy, exclusion, disengagement with school, opting out of education altogether
  • unexplained changes in behaviour or personality (chaotic, aggressive, sexual)
  • mood swings, volatile behaviour, emotional distress
  • self-harming, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, overdosing, eating disorders
  • drug or alcohol misuse
  • getting involved in crime
  • police involvement, police records
  • involved in gangs, gang fights, gang membership
  • injuries from physical assault, physical restraint, sexual assault.