One of the scariest moments in the life of any parent is when you really internalize the fact that you cannot protect your kids from everything. You get them immunizations, take them to church, set them on the path to getting a good education, teach them to look before crossing the street, hold their hands and teach them to be safe. When it comes right down to it, you cannot eternally shield them from getting sick, broken arms, bee stings, broken hearts, getting burned while learning to cook, rejection or failing at something they really want to do.
You can prepare your child. And, in preparation, you can arm them with the decision-making skills necessary to avoid many of life’s little bumps; and hopefully, some of life’s really big challenges.
Being sexually abused, assaulted or kidnapped is a big fear for all parents. It seems that every other day we hear of children being kidnapped, snatched from bus stops, assaulted in seemingly public places and, Lord help us, when authorities find a body. This is the world that we live in; and our children need to be prepared to navigate this world. Don’t for one second think that it cannot happen to your child. That if you keep you eyes on them every second, take them to church and teach them right from wrong, they will not face the ugliness of this world. The moment you think that, you are one step away from losing the battle.
How can you spot a child molester in an attempt to keep your child safe? You can’t! Stop trying. You will never suspect the guilty. They are good at lying and blending in so forget them and focus on your child.
How then can you prepare your child to make good decisions?
In All Things Be Truthful. This is a hard topic for parents, but oh so necessary. Make a commitment today to tell your child the truth. They don’t have to watch “The Godfather” to know there is violence in the world, but they do need to know. When kids ask you a question, always be honest (and age-appropriate) when you answer. Always being honest doesn’t mean you give away the keys to the bank. However, if you start honestly with your child, they will actually begin to BELIEVE what you say.
Start Young. From the beginning, we teach kids to say “No” to sex. Sex is bad. Only “fast” girls or “mannish” boys think this way or act that way. Rethink YOUR position on sex. Sex is good. Sex was created by God. Just like anything else – there are some rules to follow. And, just like all things, anything can be turned ugly and sinful. Unfortunately, many parents start with the negative. Make sex a good and safe topic in your home. Sex is not bad, but promiscuity is. Sex is not bad, but rape is. Sex is not bad, but getting a disease is. Sex is not bad, but incest is.
Your Body Is Yours. We have all seen – or been the victims of – someone telling a child to go give Auntie or Grandma a hug or a kiss. And, we’ve seen the child saying no, crying, pulling away or cringing. Do not make your child give affection when they don’t want to give it. Grown folks will understand and if they don’t, too bad! That child is in danger of thinking that their body is not their own to control and someone else has the right to control their body. Teach your child that they are in control of their bodies and that they have the RIGHT to say no to ANY physical touch that makes them uncomfortable. How can you expect a child to say no to a grown up stranger who may not be so nice, but they cannot say no to Auntie?
Even with the doctor, children need to understand that their body is theirs. The parent should be in the exam room with any young child for any procedure to explain (this is part of preparation) what kind of touch is necessary – even if it is uncomfortable. Remember, doctors have been known to molest children, too. Children can only know the difference of good and bad touch through education — from you, the parent.
You Are Loved. Self-esteem and self-assuredness are so crucial to a child making good decisions. Saying the words I love you is important. Showing love is immeasurable! Hugs, kisses, a pat on the back, a whispered “I knew you could do it!”, and when a child screams, “I hate you!” You scream back, “But I love you!” Kids really do not know the difference between behavior and personal characteristics. You DO have to correct your child or maybe even fuss sometimes. I am guilty. However, try: “I really love you, but it makes me sick that there are oranges all over the floor.” “I love you, but I don’t like when you talk to me crazy.” “I love you, but if you don’t get this kitchen cleaned there’s gonna be trouble.” What you impart is that I love you, but I do not like your behavior. I’m working on this one myself, so hang in there.
I Can Give You Anything In This World – But I Won’t. One of the many ploys of child molesters is to entice a child with the material things that they really want – but mama and daddy won’t let them have. They promise and many times deliver ice cream, candy, accessibility to video games and puppies, staying out of school or the latest gadget. There will always be a price to pay. When my child asks for something unreasonable (like a $400 Wii System and they don’t play with the $200 PlayStation) my answer is: I will not. It’s not: I can’t. As parents, YOU know that you could give your child ANYTHING they asked for: $200 tennis shoes, another pair of designer jeans, the most popular toy, candy before dinner – need I go on? Of course, you also know that the light bill or rent won’t get paid in order to do all that – especially if, like me, you have more than one child.
It is perfectly okay to tell a child, No. However, make sure to say the words, “I could buy you xyz, but I am not because: that is not in our budget, you already have xyz, and we live in a world where you cannot have everything.” Your child needs to be educated that the things in “the world” are not free. Free Lunch at school is paid for by the taxpayers. Buy one get one free means the price of the purchased item or your continued business pays for the “free” one.
Hip Your Child To The Game. Your child needs to know how molesters think, act and what they might say. Tell your child all the tricks that molesters use so they won’t be caught off guard. Run through these scenarios:
Situation: A grown up stops and asks you for directions.
Answer: Grown folks do not need to ask kids for directions.
Respond: Run and tell.
Situation: A grown up asks you for help: find my puppy, look for my lost child, can you hold something.
Answer: Grown folks do not need to ask kids for help – ever.
Respond: Run and tell.
Situation: A grown up says if you don’t come with me, do this, drink this, get in the car – or whatever, I will kill you or kill your mom, sister, whoever.
Answer: DO NOT EVER LEAVE WITH ANYBODY! No matter what they look like or what they are wearing. You child should never leave where they are without the person who brought them.
Respond: Yell, “You can’t kill me or my family!” as you run and tell. Note: If a person will shoot your child in the streets or public or broad daylight, what can you imagine they will do to them when they get them alone?
Situation: You are at a relative’s house and someone (even someone you know) tries to touch you, get you alone, makes you feel uncomfortable.
Answer: Listen to your gut. If you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or threatened (even if it’s someone that mama or daddy knows and likes, get away. Mama and daddy will not be mad at you.)
Say: Yell out: “I don’t want to be in here with you!” as you run and tell.
Situation: A grown up grabs you and starts to pull you away.
Answer: Fight, kick, scream, bite, curse and say: Help me! This is not my daddy!
Say: Say every curse word in the book (yeah, they know them). Grown ups will sit up and pay attention to a child cursing whereas they might ignore what they perceive as a tantrum. Then run and tell.
Make sure your child knows to tell – immediately. Getting away is just the beginning. Telling allows the parent to follow through with the police. Also, many public establishments have exterior video camera and your child may have been caught on tape. This will make it easier for authorities to follow up.
Your child needs to know, without a doubt, that you will listen to them seriously and follow through.
Make It Real and Practice. Your child may think that they are super bad. They can get away. They can fight back. This is a good mentality. However, much of what your child sees on television is made up. They see characters getting the best of the bad guys. You, however, know how staged these “fights” are. You have to show them the reality of fighting back.
In our home, we had my husband, Big John, 6’2″ and 235 lbs. grab and hold my now 10- year old daughter. We had to “show” her just how strong a grown man is. We made it real. You have to really, really fight (hit in the nose, eyes, kick the shins, stomp the feet, bite) in order to get loose and get away. We repeated this exercise with my 16 year-old son (unfortunately, kids molest younger kids sometimes) restraining her. My son is 5’9″ and 165 lbs. but he is still much stronger than a seven or even 10-year old. Even when my husband restrained my 16 year-old son, he couldn’t believe how much stronger his dad was. And, he was not trying to really hurt them like a molester would.
Prepare Them for the World and Pray. Your child will have to navigate the world without you there to protect them at some point in time. Get them ready. If they walk to school, walk with them at least once to point out ways to be safe. If they have to wait for you after practice, come early and stay late so you can point out what they should do if you are ever running late. It happens. Teach them to use a cell phone, be safe on the bus or subway and how to get help in the public if they have to. I personally, teach all my kids to find a woman with children if they are lost or need help. This is the safest bet. The chances of a mom being a molester or helping a molester are slim. And, typically, a woman with children will not leave another child alone to fend for themselves. Not impossible – but slim. Teach them to stay in the light, literally. Evil does its best business in the dark – spiritually and physically. Finally, pray for them and their safety; but most importantly, teach them to pray for themselves.
- www.familywatchdog.us: Information on locating registered sex offenders in your vicinity.
- www.unitedwaysb.org/kidsafe.pdf: Information on how kids can be street savvy – good info for kids living in the city or densely populated areas.
- www.unitedwaysb.org/kidsafehome.pdf: Information on how latchkey kids can be safe at home alone.
- http://www.childluresprevention.com: Excellent site with actual television footage (Windows or Quicktime) on ways molesters try and abduct teenagers and college students.
- http://www.pollyklaas.org/safe/pdf/Abduction-Prevention-Guidelines.pdf: General information on how to protect your child from abduction.
- https://childsafenetwork.org: Information on keeping your child safe, safety tips, and general information.
- Girl’s Fight Back (The College Girl’s Guide to Protecting Herself) by Erin Weed
This book is designed to be the A-Z guide for every girl attending college. Erin wrote the book to be an easy read, but without giving simplistic or fear-based advice you’ve heard a million times before. It’s written with her signature tone, mixing serious topics with humor and fun. 186 pages. Published by Boulder Press and distributed by MidPoint Books.