Across Western Pennsylvania, school is letting out for the summer this week, and many parents are taking advantage of this time to talk to their kids about what they want to do over their break. While scheduling fun is an important part of any summer plan, parents should consider another important aspect of their conversation with their kids: talking about sexual abuse.
Many parents are uncomfortable with the idea of talking to their children about sex in any form. Yet failing to talk to your kids about appropriate and inappropriate touch can actually make them more vulnerable to sexual predators.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by age 18. The majority (93%) of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are known to the victim. These statistics show why it is so critical to have these conversations with your children. Talking about these issues can actually make your kids feel more comfortable coming to you if they do have a problem.
Summer is the perfect time to start this conversation, as it is a time when children tend to have more freedom, and are around other adults in different situations than they otherwise would be during the school year. For younger kids, it is also a good way to introduce a simple rule: anything covered by a bathing suit is considered a private part. Here are some other tips to help guide your conversation:
Use basic, anatomically correct language
Give examples of appropriate and inappropriate touch. For example, changing a baby’s diaper or a doctor giving a checkup would be considered an appropriate touch, while someone touching their private part against their will would be an inappropriate touch.
Give them a strategy of what to do if anything makes them uncomfortable, such as telling a parent or other trusted adult.
Emphasize that there are no secrets from parents or the trusted adult. Secrets are often used by predators to manipulate kids. Let your child know that if someone wants them to keep a secret from a parent or trusted adult, that they should not keep that secret.
Validate their feelings. Make sure that your children know that they can trust their instincts, and that you will respect how they are feeling. That will make them feel comfortable coming to you if they are being abused.
Make sure that your kids know that it’s OK to say “no” to touches that are unwelcome (other than touches that are necessary for health or safety reasons), and that you will support them in their decision. For example, if Great Aunt Sally wants a kiss or a hug, don’t force your child if he or she is unwilling to give a kiss or a hug. Empower your child to say no, and support them in that choice.
Blackburn Center offers a variety of resources for parents who want to talk to their kids about subjects like sexual abuse, teen dating violence, bullying, and other topics. Visit our For Parents page to learn more. If you would like to schedule a free training or education program for group, including one geared towards children, you can contact our office here.
Talking to your kids about sexual abuse can be difficult, but it is an important step in protecting them from this type of abuse. Empowering kids with knowledge and making them feel comfortable talking to their parents about adults and other kids who may be harming them can be critical in stopping predators.