What Parents Need toTeach Their Kids to Protect Them from Abuse
As beautiful as our world can be, and as much as we want our children to see nothing but beauty within it, there are still scary monsters that prey on the innocence of children.
When we bring babies into the world, they are innocent, precious little souls, that need the protection-no matter what.
Protecting a child doesn’t look the same from family to family, or environment to environment. As they mature into walking, talking humans, we want them to have independence, but we also still need to surround them in our protection.
Unfortunately, there are always going to be abusive people in this world, who have either been abused themselves, and cannot break the cycle, or they have something incorrectly wired in their brains, that causes them to inflict terror onto tiny victims.
Here are a Few Ways to Ensure Your Kids Are Knowledgable and Safe from Predators:
The Talk: We all want our kids to be able to talk with us about anything, and everything, that comes into their creative, busy minds. We want them to be able to trust us, no matter what they ask, or what they chatter about.
Taking moments, during play, or bath time, to engage in talks with your kiddo will open up continual dialogue. Bedtime is another imperative time, to sit with your child and have real conversations with them. Ask them about their day, and about the people they spent their time with. Give them their own space, time and dialogue to open up, without interrupting them. If they have your trust, they will tell you if anyone has hurt them, or treated them in a way that made them uncomfortable.
Make these moments meaningful, and allow them to feel that they have your undivided attention. If you want to speak with them, and you are scrolling through your phone, or distracted with cooking or cleaning, they will not build the capacity of trust with you.
Teach Your Child Body Part Names as Early as Possible: We all have vaginas, penises, bums, and nipples. All of us.
As much as these words can make a child giggle, they need to be talked about in the same way that an arm, or leg is discussed. Everyone has these parts of the body, and in not talking about them, they are made to be “taboo”.
By the same token, calling them “cutesy” little names like “lala”, “peeped”, or ‘Boomboom” sends a message to your child, that these parts are silly, and the real name should never be used. Penis and vagina are NOT swear words. They are real names that shouldn’t be confusing to openly talk about.
Consider for a moment, if a predator in a day home, or a relative, or babysitter, did something horrible to your child. If you wanted to report it to the police, and your child talked about their “lala” being touched, it would open up more questions, more stress, and more horror for you and your child. Also, it could be thrown out of a police report, because the predator could argue, that the child has no idea what they are talking about.
This is a horrible conversation, I know, but trust me when I say- being clear about body parts, and the actual names of private areas, is one of the most important discussions you need to have with your children.
If your child is abused, or has been around a predator who made an attempt to abuse them, they will no longer giggle at the words penis and vagina. They will be parts of horror stories.
Talk to Your Kiddo about Boundaries: Bath time is the perfect time to talk to your child about their body. You can discuss what part of their body a bathing suit covers up, and why.
“Your bathing suit covers your nipples and vagina because we aren’t allowed to let anyone else see them, or touch them. They are our private places, and if anyone tries to touch them, yell at them and say, “NO!” Tell them that they are not allowed to touch your body!”
You can even ask them, “What would you do if someone tried to touch your penis/vagina?” Kids are always open to discuss these topics, even while they are in the bath, or getting ready for bed.
This will allow them to actually think of what you are asking them, and understand that this is something that is not “normal.” They will comprehend that there is a reason that you used the “giggle words”, and provoke their own thoughts. You can start asking questions like this, and having conversations with them, before they even start preschool.
Even if your child is embarrassed by your open dialogue, talk about it anyway, Before you know it, you will both become more comfortable with it.
Read Your Child Books about Abuse:
“I Said No” by Kimberly King and Zach King is an excellent Youtube video and book.
Another one is- “My Body Belongs to Me: A Book about Body Safety” by Jill Starishevsky
There are THOUSANDS of books available that teach this topic. Kids LOVE books, and they remember them. If you have a copy of the book on a shelf at home, available to your child to look at alone, they will learn from them.
If this topic scares you, and you can’t seem to find the comfort zone to approach the discussion, books are a great way to bond, and to begin the talk. Alternatively, there are a ton of videos online, that you can watch with your kiddo.
Have an Alternate Trust Plan in Place: As your child grows, and matures, they may no longer see their parents as a trustable source. Sorry, but that is just the way kids mature, and learn independence. Before you know it, your daughter is rolling her eyes at your advice, or your son is slamming his bedroom door when you discipline him. This means that they still love you, but they may not always feel like they can tell you their deepest secrets. They see you as their “disciplinarian” and not necessarily a confidant.
You may need an alternate plan.
Observe who your kids bond with. Watch who they seem to trust, and the relationship that they have with the other person. That other person, may be the ONE who will save your child’s life.
It may be a teacher, or one of their friends’ parents, or a minister of your church. Perhaps it’s the next door neighbor, a family friend, or a grandparent.
This is not easy for parents, but the “alternative trust person” may be more important in your child’s life, than you, the parent.
This is the person that you look at, and trust with your child’s life. It is THE person, who you tell your child to go to, if they ever have something to tell, that they aren’t comfortable telling you.
“If you have to tell someone a big secret, and you can’t tell mommy or daddy, please go to (this person) and talk to them. I trust them and know that you have a special bond with them.”
Giving your child options and permission to talk to others, tells them that you have faith in them, and in the confidant that you are allowing them to go to. It shows them that their feelings and comfort is valued. (Of course, the key is, it has to be someone you trust with your child’s life, without question). With my daughter, I assigned her grandmother, and she willingly accepted the responsibility.
You also need to inform your child’s confidant that they have the permission to share their deepest secrets with them, and keep an open line of communication open with them.
Remember, it doesn’t matter who the child discloses to. It only matters that they disclosed.
Know Your Child: If you raise your child, in open, genuine, access to communication and trust, you should be able to read your kiddo if they are struggling with anything like abuse, or bullying.
Parents need to BE PRESENT. You should be able to see changes in your child if they are being manipulated, threatened, bullied, abused, or tormented.
Their demeanour will change.
It’s on you, the parent, to have the type of relationship with your kids to make sure that you can see if they are affected by mental challenges. This is where you need to change your focus, make your kids a top priority, and put away the distractions.
It may not be your fault that your child has been abused by someone, or bullied at school, but it is your responsibility to find a way to support them. It is up to you to help them to heal from it, and to teach them ways to disclose and move forward.
If Your Child Discloses
The worst thing you can ever do, if your child trusts you enough to tell you that they have been abused, is to question them. Never, ever show them that you are doubting their story.
Listen to them
Watch their body language and expressions.
Have them write it all out, if they are old enough.
Record their story discreetly.
Take notes, unless it makes them uncomfortable. Or take notes together.
Ask open questions-”Where did they touch you?” “Show me on your body, or on this doll, where the person touched you”. “Are you okay? What did you do when this was happening?” “Were you frightened? What did they say to you?” “When did this happen?” “Who was with you?”
If they don’t want to answer your questions, ask them who they would feel comfortable talking with.
ALWAYS GET SOME KIND OF HELP.
Go to the police, a therapist, or anyone else who can help your child work through the trauma.
Do not go to the predator, and confront them, unless you have the police or someone with you. If you go to your child’s predator, without back up, you are sending the massage to your child, that you TRUST the predator enough to listen to them. It could also be dangerous for you, to attack someone who is being accused of abusing your child. Confronting them without some sort of back up, will cause further damage to the situation.
Don’t make it a secret. Talk about it openly, and remind your child that they aren’t at fault.Make sure they understand that what they did was right, in telling you, and that you believe them.
Remind them that this is something that needs to be talked about, openly, and keeping it a secret will make it worse. Set boundaries with your child, about who you will talk to about it, in order to show your child who can be trusted.
“ I will only discuss this with your father, and the policeman. If you want to share your story, and talk it through, please do. It’s your story and you need to heal.”
Never try and cover up the problem. Keep it out in the open with your child, and encourage them to write about it, talk about it and be honest about their feelings.
How I Know
When I was a kid, my parents were NEVER present. I was basically on my own from 8 years old, and for my teen years. There was never a time when I felt enough trust in my mother, to tell her what was going on when she was absent. I knew, and still know, that if I would have told her what my sister and father were doing to me, she wouldn’t have done anything about it. It would have been easier for her to tell me I was lying, or that she would “talk to them”. (She never did talk to them, even when my body was badly bruised by my sister). I tried to “disclose” once with her about my father, and she said “You are making that up. He would never do that”.
The only people I trusted with my secrets were my friends, and I never disclosed until the abuse had been happening for years. This resulted in suicide attempts, eating disorders, cutting my arms and legs with razors, and a whole lot of mental anxiety and depression.
When I raised my daughter, I taught her all of the values and lessons I should have learned, and been taught. I sang her funny songs, while she bathed, and then asked her serious questions about “who is allowed to touch your body?”
I spent hours reading all kinds of books with her, and added a few abuse topic books to the mix. I also told her why the vagina and bum are private, and made sure that she understood what that meant.
And I gave her permission, when she was 13 years old, to tell her grandmother ANYTHING that made her uncomfortable to tell me. I also made it clear, that if she couldn’t share with her grandmother, she could tell me who she trusted, to tell secrets to.
From the time my kiddo was 13 until about 16, she saw me as the enemy, as her mom. I was the one who she rolled her eyes at, for asking her to do the dishes, or her laundry. I was the one who wouldn't let her stay out until midnight, when her friends had permission to. I was the target for her, “Oh my gawd, mom! You don’t let me do anything!” Before she slammed her door, and hid angstily in her room, listening to ridiculously loud music. And that’s okay. That’s part of parenting.
I knew she had someone to trust, even if it wasn’t always me.
It is never about YOU, as the parent. It is about something that happened in your child’s world that turned it upside down. It is about THEM, and doing everything in your power, to help them work through it.
My daughter has ALWAYS been safe from abuse. She knew her boundaries, she knew that no one was allowed to touch her, without her permission, and she always knew that she had someone to turn to, if she had doubts.
These are the lessons, I wish someone would have taught me, before I was abused.