April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so it calls attention to this extremely important subject. In this week’s edition of BANANA Bites we bring this tough conversation to the table and discuss ways to help keep children safe.
Dear BANANA Bites,
We would like to talk to our children about child abuse, and especially the dangers of molestation, without causing them extra fear. What are some ways we can help them protect themselves?
–Parents Addressing Child Abuse Prevention
This is a subject that all parents worry about and yet it’s a topic that can be very difficult to address. We always want to protect our little ones from danger without destroying their basic trust of people or upsetting their view that this is a good world. We may shy away from the topic because we don’t think it’s possible to discuss the negative aspects of sexuality, such as adult exploitation of children, without giving disapproving messages about healthy physical affection or sex in general. However, children are exposed to media events and news stories about murders, burglaries, kidnappings, rapes, and molestations and we need to help interpret these events for children and put them into perspective.
Some facts to keep in mind are: Child molestation can occur in any neighborhood. The offender can be of any age, race, or economic level. In most cases, the offender is not a stranger, but a relative or acquaintance of the family. The victim can be either a male or female. Molestations very seldom take place in a child care program. They occur much more frequently in a home or neighborhood setting.
Six steps you can follow to help children protect themselves:
1. Teach children their full names, addresses, and phone numbers. Also teach them your workplace number and the number for 9-1-1.
2. Talk to children about their bodies, including vagina, penis, and breasts. Teach them that these parts are private.
3. Tell your child(ren) that if anyone tries to touch or look at his/her private parts, shows them pictures of privates parts, or tries to photograph their private parts, then the child needs to tell you, a teacher, guardian, or caregiver as soon as they can.
4. Teach children that they should tell you if an adult asks them to keep secrets and emphasize that these kind of secrets are never allowed.
5. Let children know that people who want to do ‘secret touching’ might try tricks to get children to do what they want, such as offering candy or gifts or threatening them with punishment. Tell children that this is wrong and that people who do this will get in trouble for their behavior.
6. Give children specific ideas of what behaviors to watch out for and give them permission to say NO and to leave a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable.
For some examples of how to have these conversations, additional tips for keeping kids safe, and resources for children and adults, please read our handout How to Talk to Your Child About Molestation.”