Things You Can do to Teach Child Abuse Safety
Let’s be honest: child abuse is a topic that is hard to talk about. But keeping your child safe is on the list of “must do” things as a parent. We teach our children to look both ways before they cross the street. We tell them to be careful when they climb trees. We make sure their food is safe to eat.
But are we talking to our kids about personal safety?
For many, I am guessing the answer is no.
I am not one to use scare tactics, but some of the statistics on child abuse are quite alarming. According to Children’s Protective Services, in 2014 there were over 80,000 children ages 0-17 whose families were investigated for child abuse in Michigan. Kent County had 18,982 cases and Ottawa County had 4,361 cases.
And those are just the ones that were investigated. In 2016, The Detroit Free Press reported that the number of children victimized equates to a rate of 15.6 per 1,000 children statewide, the highest rate Michigan has seen since 1990.
Do I have your attention?
A few Guidelines for Keeping Your own Kiddos Safe
1. Teach About Private Parts
Your child needs to understand what parts of his or her body are considered “private.” The Swimsuit Lesson by Jon Holsten is one of my favorite books on this topic. The author is a retired police sergeant and former investigator of child sex crimes. It is written in very simple terms for kids and also has a separate parent section.
2. Teach Them That They can say No to an Adult
Tell an authority figure “no” can be tough for kids. Talk to your kids about when they should obey adults (nearly always) and when it’s okay to not obey. They do NOT have to “keep a secret” with an adult if it makes them uncomfortable. They do not have to say, see, or do anything with an adult that makes them feel uncomfortable, especially if involves their body or an adult’s.
Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 30% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are family members and about 60% are known to the child but are not family members (family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors, etc.). That means that 90% of child abuse comes from someone that the child already knows.
So yes, this is worth talking about.
Here is a previous article I wrote on the topic of talking about sex with your kiddos.
3. Listen to the Little Voice in Your Head
This advice is for both kids and parents. If you get a weird feeling about a family member of one of your child’s friends, don’t let them play at their house. While I am certainly not advocating that we all go around being super judgmental of others, when it comes to the safety and well-being of your child, you need to go with your gut. We all have a sense of what is right and wrong. We all have that little voice in our heads that says, “I’m not so sure about this…”
My husband and I talk to our kids about this all the time. We tell that them that “if something makes you uncomfortable, get yourself out of that situation right away.”
Kids need to have an “out” in those situations. Make sure your child knows what to do if they find themselves in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation. Also make sure they know that they will never be in trouble for telling you about something that made them uncomfortable or calling you to have you come pick them up from a friend’s house because they are uncomfortable.
Many of you probably saw this article floating around recently; this is a great strategy for parents to use with older kids.
4.Identify Safe Adults
As much as we want our kids to talk to us about everything, we can’t be the only safe adult in their lives. Talk to your kids about who they can talk to if they need to. Encourage your kids to make a list of those adults and post it somewhere they will see if every day. These adults could be a grandparent, teacher, family friend, coach, parent of a friend, school counselor, etc.
Mom and Dad, It’s OK to Need Help
As a final thought, parent to parent, please know yourself and your limits. Whether they do it intentionally or not, kids can certainly push parents to their max. When you find yourself at the point of total frustration with your children, make sure you have a plan, too. Have your spouse/ partner/ neighbor “tag in” when you need a break, give yourself a time out in the bathroom until you can regain calm, or seek out counseling services if you need it. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs on the planet- there is no shame in needing to learn some strategies.
Here is a previous article on parenting resources in West Michigan.