Millions of children are sexually abused every year. Follow these 6 tips to keep your kids safe.
have read two powerful articles about child sexual abuse this week. Evolutionary Parenting published an article written by Anonymous about the power of our words and the effects they have when we find out that someone is sexually abusing our child ... you should check it out. The words are eloquently writen and it touches the core of the human spirit. The other article is headline news about a 13 year old boy who is facing life in prison ... truly scary stuff!
Whether you read one article, both or none, one can't help but think about the rise in childhood sexual abuse. I have spent countless hours with hundereds of families discussing, processing, feeling, thinking and grieving over the acts of sexual abuse. To be honest, it is one of my biggest fears as a parent: "What will I do if someone abuses my children?"
I believe most parents think about this topic. We are often filled with vengeful thoughts where we want to hurt the person who hurt our children. But I say we have come further than that. We need to be proactive. There are six things that we can do to help our children be safe out in the big, wide world, even when we are not around. Here they are:
1. Teach children to listen to their gut or intuition. Most kids have an excellent radar on people. They can determine who feels safe and who does not ...listen to them. As adults, we tend to minimize what our children think. This is not helpful.
Our children must believe in themselves and listen to what their intuition tells them. Do not expose your children to people they have a bad intuition about.
2. Talk about safety and secrets. As a rule, I believe we should never teach kids to keep secrets. If you are planning a party for someone, teach kids that this is a surprise. Surprises are good, secrets are usually bad. Begin at an early age at discussing what to do if someone tells a child to keep a secret. Because most child molesters are known to the victim, this is a common phrase: "It's our little secret."
3. Do not be afraid to ask the tough question. When we as adults can't handle talking about a tough topic like sexual abuse, how in the world can we expect our children to handle it? Thus, do not be afraid to ask the question, "Has anyone ever hurt you or made you feel uncomfortable?" Then, be prepared for the answer. If the answer is yes, do not freak out! Be supportive and comforting. Listen, use less words. Then, let your child know: "we will figure this out as we go along."
4. Educate children about sexual abuse. A standard rule to use with children is "no one can touch your private parts except you. Mommies and daddies can help you if you are feeling sick and sometimes doctors need to check out our private parts, but always with a mommy or daddy in the room." Even the smallest of children can understand this. I talk with little kids this golden rule: anywhere your bathing suit covers up is a private part. This helps them know the boundaries.
5. Healthy touch is crucial to positive development. Kids need touch, we all do! We need hugs and snuggles, wrestling and high fives. Teach kids what healthy touch is about. Teach them who is appropriate to get touched from and how they can get it.
For example, do you hug every person you know? What if someone touches you and you feel uncomfortable? How do you handle someone getting in your space?
6. Be aware, tuned in and conscientious. Notice if things change in your children such as eating habits, mood or sleep. Tune into emotions and make sure that you know what they are about. Parents who are tuned into their children will pick up on subtle changes and address them quickly. Most sexual offenders "groom" people or spend time building relationships before they harm someone.
You are your child's biggest advocate. By keeping them safe, educating them and tuning into their needs, we can stop this epidemic!