As a parent what is your greatest fear? A group of women in my bible study group were asked that same question and almost all of them agreed that their greatest fear was that someone would harm their children. Most of us can identify with that as well.
The topic I am going to discuss today is not an easy one. It can make us feel uncomfortable for a myriad of reasons, but that doesn’t mean we stick our heads in the sand and hope that our children, if ever faced with this situation would somehow know what to do. The statistics on sexual abuse are staggering and incorrect when you take into account how often this crime goes unreported. When it comes to this topic we as parents must be proactive in giving our children the tools they need to hopefully prevent it from happening.
- No Secrets and Open communication
There needs to be a clear understanding that there are no secrets between you and your children. None. An understanding that they will never be disciplined for sharing a secret, even if it’s something as innocent as telling you what daddy got mommy for Christmas is so important. That way, if someone ever says, “This is going to be our little secret,” or “Don’t tell your mom and dad,” your children will recognize that red flag and come tell you immediately.
You need to be a safe place that allows open communication with your children. If someone threatens or bribes them they can feel safe enough to come share it with you. If you have younger children it may be good to rehearse what they would do in a scenario where someone wanted to keep a secret, bribe or threaten them.
- Don’t Force Physical Affection…Even With Family
Yes, even with sweet grandma Sally that you haven’t seen in a while. If you’re your children feel uncomfortable giving affection it’s wise for them to learn not to ignore that feeling. They may not feel uncomfortable, but just may not want to and that’s okay–it’s their bodies.
In regards to physical touch and affection they have a voice and a right to say no. In forcing them to hug or kiss family and friends when they don’t want to, you are training them to ignore that uncomfortable feeling and telling them that they don’t have a choice in who touches them. Sometimes that uncomfortable feeling is the first line of defense.
When I was little there was a man that I felt very uncomfortable around. I couldn’t tell my parents why, but I didn’t want to hug him or be alone with him. He had never done anything to me and was always nice but there was something that didn’t sit right with me. That man is now serving life in prison for the sexual abuse he did to children. Side note for clarity- we are huggers in our family. When leaving family or friends I will tell my boys to say goodbye and give hugs. They will usually run and say goodbye to everyone, but if they choose not to give hugs, I don’t force it. And not everyone who wants to hug our child is a predator. This tool is simply put in place so our children know that they have a choice and a voice when it comes to physical affection, especially since statistics say that most sexual predators end up being someone we know.
- Their Body is Their Own
This one goes hand in hand with number 2. Our children need to know that their body is their own–no one else has the right to see it or touch it except for a doctor (with a parent present) or mommy and daddy. Begin telling your children this when they are in diapers, before they are even able to understand. When they are really small, keep it simple by saying, “Don’t ever let anyone see or touch your private area.” (Insert whatever you choose to call it).
Parents of girls are usually good about telling their daughters to protect their modesty. Parents of boys should do the same thing. Their body is for their eyes only and their modesty needs to be protected as well. They can protect their modesty by keeping bathroom doors closed (no one needs to go in with them) and by not dressing/undressing in front of people. When they get older the language of this should shift to their body being for their eyes and that of their wife/spouse only.
- Communicate Without Emotion, But With Love
When discussing these tools with your children do so without emotion. This may seem like a silly one, but I think it’s wise for a few reasons. One being we don’t want our children to be afraid to share something important because it might evoke what they perceive as a negative emotion. They don’t need to feel like they are carrying the burden of making mommy sad or angry.
On the flip side there are some children who may see it as an opportunity to garner attention if they know it is something that will get you worked up. Let’s be level-headed and loving when discussing this with them. If there is ever something your child needs to share with you, listen to them and ask open-ended questions. (Such as what happened, when did it happen, can you show me where, how did that make you feel) DO NOT REACT. Remain calm.
Even if you don’t believe them (or are in denial), don’t ever say, “You are just trying to get attention,” “That’s not true,” “Oh…that was nothing”. It may be nothing, but it was a big enough something for them to come share it with you. Don’t dismiss it.
I often hear people talk about the “good ole days” when the world was safe for our children and they could run around without parental supervision and without the worry of sexual predators. The reality is our world has never been safe, ever since the fall of man. It has always been filled with people who want to harm children.
After reading the news headlines it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to keep our kids on lock down to protect them, but that extreme way of thinking will keep you paralyzed with fear and will prevent our children from living. Let’s not be paralyzed with fear but instead walk in the freedom of godly wisdom. When we stay rooted in godly wisdom and not worldly fear, God is glorified.
Don’t forget to pray that the Lord will protect our children and that He will give us discernment in situations we face with our children. There was not enough room to list every tool. What are some tools you would add to this list?
If you need further counseling in this area please find a biblical counselor near you at biblicalcounseling.org
A Safe Place – a book for teenagers who have been sexually abused.
Your Body Belongs to You- a book you can read with your children teaching them that their body is their own.
Monica is a daughter of the King, the wife to her loving husband and mom to her 3 noisy but sweet boys. She enjoys photography, healthy eating, working out and is currently training for her first triathlon.
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Great words of wisdom! I really like No. 4.We used to make our kids give family hugs when they would see them, even when they didn’t want to. I see now how important it is not to encourage this, but to make sure they know their body is their own.
Such great advice! I would also add how important it is to keep spending quality one on one time with your kids. I think they are much more likely to share with us when they feel close and connected to us.
This is such an important post Monica. 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 4 boys in the US are reported to be sexually abused before age 18. We have to have a mindset that is wise instead of fearful, while setting a tone that prepares our kids for navigating their world. Sharing on the Pinterest board over at Street Hope TN.
We, as mothers, should also listen to that red flag in us that warns us. For me, it’s usually a feeling that’s uncomfortable while I am with the person. I also have been repulsed by a person and didn’t know why only to find out later that the person was a sex offender.