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Five Ways Parents Can Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
Children and teens can learn protection skills, and it’s important that they do, but ultimately it’s up to adults to keep kids safe. Here are five actions you can take to help keep the children in your life safe.
1. Educate yourself about grooming behaviors – that is, how adults, who sexually abuse children, gradually build friendships and trust with children by:
- Acting as a confidante
- Rewarding a child with toys, electronics, money, and/or love
- Seducing a child over time with “innocent-like” secrets (e.g., Don’t tell your Mom about the candy we ate
before bed; that’s our special secret!” or “I probably shouldn’t have let you drive, so let’s make that spin
through the parking lot our little secret – okay?”)
2. Teach children and teens about their bodies and answer their questions about sexuality at every stage of development. Even if children don’t ask directly, proactively provide information about body development, sex, and sexuality. Kids and teens who are educated about their bodies are less vulnerable to child sexual abuse.
3. Build a prevention team of caregivers by regularly discussing body-safety rules with children and all the adults and caregivers with whom children interact (babysitters, coaches, teachers, faith leaders, relatives).
- Remind younger children to play with their clothes on and ask their caregivers to reinforce this bodysafety rule.
- Let adults know that your child has body-safety rules and has permission to say “No” if he or she ever
- Teach children the difference between secrets and surprises, and let adults know that your child does not
4. Allow children to choose when and how they show affection. And yes, this means, children get to decide whether they want to hug or kiss Grandma. Children – and the teens and young adults they become – are safer when they know it’s okay to say “No” to unwanted touch.
5. Speak up if you see any child, teen, or adult exhibiting behaviors of concern. Some examples include:
- Children with advanced sexual knowledge who may be using adult language or simulating adult sexual acts.
- Children who bribe, threaten, or coerce other children into sexual acts.
- Adults or teens who prefer being with children over their peers, insist on time alone with children, or who excessively email, text, or call a kid.
- Adults who don’t respect a child’s boundaries – i.e., someone who continues tickling or wrestling even when the child says “No,” or someone who seeks out children for emotional comfort.
Child sexual abuse is far more prevalent than we want to believe. Test Your Knowledge about child sexual abuse. But here’s the good news: Not only can we prevent child sexual abuse, but in teaching prevention skills we actually build body pride, healthy sexual development, better communication, and stronger communities.
Feather Berkower, LCSW, is founder of Parenting Safe Children, the PSC Online Workshop and co-author of Off Limits, a parenting book that will change the way you think about keeping kids safe. Feather has educated over 100,000 schoolchildren, parents, and professionals. She makes a difficult topic less scary, and empowers parents and communities to keep children safe. www.parentingsafechildren.com