Conversations about sexual abuse and prevention within our families and with our children are very important. Sexual abuse is not talked about enough in families often enough.
When parents or trusted adults react emotionally, showing anger, grief, shame, or guilt, children may shut down and further conversation may be compromised. It is important to react in a way that does not lead to this shut-down.
Because of this lack of discussion, if the child discloses or abuse is discovered, the trusted adults may not know how to react. However, if the subject is approached correctly, it can be successful in helping children understand danger. Below are several important talking points to discuss with your children to protect and educate them.
Have age appropriate discussions with children about their bodies.
Teach them about the real names of all body parts. It is important to use the true terms to reduce confusion and negative connotations about a child’s body and helps them if they disclose abuse.
Children need to know their bodies belong to them and they have a right to be protected and have boundaries.
You can practice having these discussions with children with the coloring pages included in the parent pack. Sit with your family and children to discuss that they have private areas that no one should touch, like where a swimsuit covers. Children can complete the coloring pages and you can talk about other areas that should not be touched, like their mouths.
Using concrete examples with children, especially younger children, is very important.
Talk with your children about when touch is okay and when it is not. Also, talk with children about how they should not be touching other people in their private areas either. When parents or trusted adults react emotionally, showing anger, grief, shame, or guilt, children may shut down and further conversation may be compromised. It is important to react in a way that does not lead to this shut-down.
Help your children understand that it is okay to have questions.
Discussion about sex should begin around age 8 so that children hear the information from parents before they begin to learn about it from their peers or other individuals. Remain calm during discussion so that children know it’s okay to have these discussions and questions. Acting uncomfortable, embarrassed, or even angry might make a child hesitant from asking questions in the future.
Talk about a variety of safety tips with your child at various age-appropriate levels.
As children grow, there will be different and important safety tips to address. Talking about safety is helpful in making it more natural to discuss issues about a child’s body, sex, what touch is appropriate, and how to stay safe. These conversations will become more natural like when we talk about safety in other issues like if there is a fire or if someone is hurt. Teach them steps that they should take if their safety feels compromised.
Give children “what would you do?” age appropriate scenarios so they have a chance to practice saying/doing the right thing.
Teach them the difference between a safe secret and an unsafe secret.
For example, teach them a safe secret is like keeping a surprise birthday party a secret. Help them understand that if someone says they can’t tell anyone (or specifically, can’t tell their parents), then that is an unsafe secret and they need to tell their parents.
Empowering our children to be theirn own advocate.
Children are taught not to say “NO” to adults. A child needs to know that they can say no if they feel endangered or in harms way. It is critical that we accept and allow a child to express their own affection. They may not want to hug or kiss someone, including but limited to loved ones and family members, and we should allow them to express affection as they feel comfortable with in that moment.
Discuss how grooming tactics can be used against your children.
Use the information in this pamphlet to help children understand these tactics.