by Chanelle Henderson |staff writer for The Snap Mom
We have all heard by now about the tragic scandal associated with the Duggar family. Both Josh and his victims must deal with the life-long consequences of inappropriate sexual behavior. Sadly, they are not alone. We don’t like to think about it, but the reality is that our daughter could be the 1 in 5 or our son the 1 in 20 that is abused.
Thankfully, there are things we as parents can do to fortify our children against potential abuse. By empowering our kids with tools to maintain healthy relationships and alert us if something makes them uncomfortable, we can ‘boost their immunity’ against the unthinkable. Use these guidelines as a way to be intentional in teaching your children how to stay safe and healthy.
1. Body Boundaries
From day one, teach them that they have the right to speak up if they are uncomfortable—even to adults and family members. If Great Aunt Norma goes in for a smooch and your child refuses—LET THEM! You are empowering your child by honoring her ‘no’, which is a valuable and potentially life-saving lesson. No matter the age, it is not your child’s job to satisfy someone else’s wish to touch them.
2. Teach Anatomical Body Part Names
It might be cute to call things ‘pee pees’ or ‘hoo haws’. It might be easier to hear your daughter refer to her vulva as ‘down there’. But it’s no longer ‘cute’ if you ever find yourself in the position to need to know exactly how your child was abused. If that ever happens, you’ll be glad that they are able to explicitly tell you what happened. Also, using correct terminology could help clue you in if the unimaginable were to happen. If your daughter all of a sudden is referring to her vagina as her ‘cupcake’, and you never taught her that, then you’ll know something’s wrong.
3. Talk. AND Listen.
Work to create an open and empathetic relationship with your child. Answer questions honestly and directly, and allow them to speak without judging their questions or comments. Make time to listen to them when something’s on their mind. Talk about times that it’s okay not to keep a secret, even if they made a promise. You may consider changing the vocabulary here too. Use “surprises” and “secrets.”
4. No More ‘Stranger Danger’
Sadly, 93% of children are sexually abused by someone close to them–NOT a stranger. https://rainn.org/get-inf…/statistics/
As Patty Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After said, “Stop telling your kids not to talk to strangers. They might need to talk to a stranger one day. Instead, teach them which sorts of strangers are safe. You know who’s safe? A mom with kids. Period. Your kid gets separated from you at the mall? Tell her to flag down the first mom with kids she sees.” http://www.checklistmommy.com/…/tricky-people-are-the-new-…/
Instead, she says that we should teach our kids to watch out for ‘tricky people.’ Teach them to guard against anyone—stranger or known, adult or child—who “asks [them] to break a safety rule or to do something that makes them feel bad.” They need to know that it’s not *who* the person is but *what* they ask you to DO that makes them unsafe. Safe adults don’t ask kids for “secret” help. They ask another adult.
5. Be Involved.
This is the biggest thing we can do as parents. Ask your child who they hang out with and what they do in a day, not only how they behaved. Volunteer at their school or in their activities. Get to know the parents, kids, and other adults around them.
Kids who are starved for attention are more vulnerable to abuse. Kids left unsupervised are more vulnerable to being victimized by other kids. By knowing what’s going on in your child’s life, you’ll be more likely to pick up on the ‘yucky feelings’ and changed behavior associated with unsafe people. Being involved fosters a closer relationship where our child is more likely to feel safe to confide when it counts.
For more information about how to stay safe or get help, visit www.rainn.org.
About the author
Chanelle spends her hours as a mom, a writer, a wife, and a mental health counselor–not always in that order! When she and her husband aren’t chasing after their renegade children, they ponder the finer philosophies of Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss (while wiping finger paint off the pages).