|A loving and aware parent|
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys in the U.S. has been sexually abused during their childhood. I think this is unacceptable and much too high. As many as three fourths of those are abused by a family member. That makes it especially hard to discuss the problem with your child. Here are some of the ways we have talked with our children about sexual abuse. Never give all of your child the information at once. This can be overwhelming. Small increments work best when opportunities present themselves, or when a child asks about something they have seen or heard.
Early Years before age 5
- Talk to your child about the proper names for their sexual organs
- Tell your child what are appropriate touches, ie: Mommy or Daddy has to apply medicine, help a child to bathe, a father teaching a son to use the toilet, a mother breastfeeding.
- Tell your child that it is not okay for other people to touch those areas and to tell a parent if somebody does.
- Teach them to respect their "private" areas and to keep them covered.
- Talk to them about difference between girls and boys and they will be less curious to show each other.
- Talk to them about appropriate boundaries
- Talk to them about appropriate behavior at family parties, neighborhood get togethers, etc.
- Make sure they understand it is okay to say no to kisses and hugs from anybody who makes them feel uncomfortable. Be sensitive to this. Kisses and hugs are not bad in a loving, caring environment.
- Talk to them about "good" secrets and "bad" secrets and make sure they know they can come to you if somebody asks them to keep a secret that they don't feel right about.
- Let them know you will believe them if they have something awful to tell..
- Make sure you express that adults sometimes do things that are not right and it is not a child's fault if an adult makes a bad choice.
This is where sometimes my spouse and I disagree. I believe in being blunt and to the point. He thinks that can be scary or make our children distrust those who love them the most.
- Talk to your child about sexual abuse by calling it what it is.
- Explain that sexual abuse is not just about the child being touched inappropriately. I also talked to my boys about the inappropriateness an adult asking a child to perform a sex act on them either with hands, mouth or any other part of the body.
- Explain that the majority of sexual abuse happens by family members and let the child know if a grandfather, uncle, stepparent, etc. engages in inappropriate behavior, you will be supportive and believe them. Please be sensitive in bringing this up. A child should never be afraid to have a loving, healthy relationship with extended family members.
- Talk to your child about being leery of an adult who takes a special interest in them by wanting to spend time a lot of time alone with them.
- Talk to your children about internet uses. Explain why chat rooms are off limits. Make sure they understand that somebody who wants to meet up with them is not a friend. I will take a lot of heat for this, but insist on getting your child's passwords and check their internet uses and messages once in a while.
- Talk to them about appropriate and inappropriate uses of a cell phone. Make sure they understand it is never appropriate to send or receive explicit pictures via cell phone.
- Listen to your child and look for nonverbal cues. Never blame your child.
- Tell your child why. My husband had a family member who was a convicted sex offender who his parents wanted to invite to a holiday party. I refused to bring my children and told them why. My in laws were unhappy with my choice and I did not care. Once they were older and could understand my insistence of not going into a room alone with the abuser, I reluctantly agreed to attend a future family party and it went well. My children were kind to extended family member and felt comfortable with the limits.
- Ask questions without blaming them.
- If your child appears scared to be left alone with an individual, ask why.
- Make suggestions as to why a child my be withdrawn, depressed, uncomfortable around others, etc. I have asked my own children if they have ever been touched inappropriately, been shown pornographic images, and even asked if older brothers and sisters of friends are nice to them. Sometimes it makes my children uncomfortable, but in the long run, I believe they will come to me if something does happen because they know I will listen to them and put a stop to abuse.
- Take your child to a professional if you believe abuse has occurred but the child won't reveal it.
As one of my readers pointed out, we really have to be careful about how we discuss sexual abuse with our children. I want my children to have healthy and loving relationships with their extended family members as well as their parents. If we give them too much information, too early, they will learn to distrust everybody.
I am not a mental health professional. I am a parent who has had to discuss hard topics with my children. I would encourage all parents to become educated from professionals on more they can do to protect their children from abuse. Here are some great resources I found.
Great resources on the web.