Parenting to prevent sexual abuse

by Tanya Monteiro on 12/11/2012

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It’s really hard to get my own head around how easily sexual abuse happens. Today I read this article about a known sexual offender who got a job in a school and continued to abuse kids. We so often think it’s not going to happen to us, or how is that possible? or even, how stupid other people are, but as I walk down this path and it unfolds I am reminded often that allot of the time it happens under our noses. The advise for parents in this article inspired me to share with anyone.

Talk to your kids. many parents actually don’t spend all that much time each day talking to their children. It takes patience, and time. It takes building a culture within your family of daily sharing and listening. It’s very worth the effort; not only will it make you closer as a family, but it will make it easier and more natural for your children to tell you about anything that happens to them.

2) Teach your child about body parts. Do it in the bathtub or at other natural times of nakedness. Teach them the actual names; it will help if a child ever needs to explain anything. Make sure they know which parts are their private parts, which nobody should look at or touch except the people you say are okay. Which leads into…

3) Talk about good and bad touches. This is an obvious offshoot of talking about private parts, but bad touches don’t necessarily involve touching breasts or genitals. A bad touch is any touch that makes a child feel uncomfortable–and those are the instincts you want to teach your child. Which leads into…

4) Teach them that no grownup should ask them to keep a secret. So much of abuse and sexual predation begins with secrets, and as with touches, they aren’t always sexual. So teach your child that grownups shouldn’t be asking children to keep secrets. (You may end up finding out about birthday or Christmas presents you weren’t meant to, but that could be an added benefit.)

I get that these are really hard conversations to have. Don’t do it all at once–do it in bits and pieces as moments come up. And do it with hugs and reassurances that you and all the trusted grownups around them are always working to keep them safe. The idea should be to empower your children, not scare them.

Be watchful, and trust your instincts. Pay attention to changes in behavior or offhand comments or things that happen that seem odd, and ask questions. Be a little paranoid. I’m not advocating total paranoia, because a. most people in the world are good, b.you don’t want to raise a paranoid and anxious child and c.you will make yourself crazy. But keep your antennae up, and if something doesn’t seem right to you, don’t ignore it.

There’s no guarantee of safety, obviously. As we’ve been hearing in the coverage about John Burbine, while there were some suspicions, many people had no idea at all what was happening. That’s the thing about predators like him: they do a remarkably good job of hiding what they do.

But If you do these things starting when your child is small, and work to maintain ongoing conversations and support when they go through adolescence, you will go a long way toward keeping your child safe.”

AND if you have not yet seen the move TRUST go ahead and rent it, you won’t regret it I promise!

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