How do we teach our children to keep themselves safe from the adult predators in our midst? Are our schools teaching them what they need to know? Are parents teaching our youth what they need to know? Does your child feel safe enough to approach you if their personal space is being invaded? How do you know?
Parents and Educators:
How do you teach the skills needed?
Most abusers are not what we picture in our minds. In other words they are not the repulsive dirty man sitting on a park bench. In fact, most abusers are youths themselves.
More parents and schools need to teach children these basics. Teach your children to say, NO, GO, and TELL you or another parent/parental figure when other children or an adult does something that they know is wrong – or even just feels not right. Unfortunately, most parents admit to not speaking to their children about these issues. I know it is uncomfortable for some, but there are ways parents can speak to their children about staying safe from abuse, without compromising their morality.
The secondary – and more devastating – trauma that children (and later adults) have with sexual abuse is that they feel that they cannot tell anyone, or if they do tell someone, their reports will be discounted. If more children would have the courage and self esteem to speak out, and more parents and educators would have the ability to trust and listen to children when they talk, our world, their world, would be a safer one.
Remember: Children with one or more of the following attributes have an increased risk of being abused:
* Good at keeping secrets. * Often not believed by adults. * Children with poor social skills. * Children with few friends. * Children who crave adult attention.
Some basic tips on how to teach your children to be safe:
* Invite your children to speak to you about anything they would like. You do not have to force a child to speak to you; the invitation is the most important part of the message. Children need to know that they can come to you if they need to. A child who feels comfortable sharing uncomfortable conversations with his or her parents has a much lower risk of suffering the trauma of abuse and the secondary trauma of feeling as if he or she is at fault and/or cannot share experiences with others.
* Ensure that your children know that they can inform you if something or someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
* Teach them that they can share this with you even if the person is a brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, teacher, babysitters, stranger, or family friend.
* Children need to be taught this at a young age (4-8).
* Do not tell children that if anything ever happens something bad will happen to the person who did it. First, you cannot guarantee that. Second, very often, it is someone with who they have a close relationship and may want to protect.
* Model themes related to safety so that your children can become aware if others are violating their rights. These include modeling healthy respect of physical and emotional boundaries; modeling the respect of privacy amongst family members within the home; and modeling the ability to talk about sensitive feelings in an appropriate manner.
* If you know of a child who often seeks close relationships with adults, find him/her a mentor, before he finds his own (or the adult finds him).