Thanks for these points, Theresa. I am always amazed at how easy these management issues become once an organization (or family) implements them. I got to thinking about some of the ways a parent can act and relate that can help prepare their child to not be abused. I think of four behaviors right away: 1) On the radar, 2) Chatter, 3) Buddy, and 4) Touch.
1. "On the radar" refers to the idea that you regularize the reality of abuse, or any topic. I tried to bring up conversations about abuse or sexuality regularly with my kids. I did a lot of driving to music lessons, sports practice, etc. Regularly I would turn down the radio volume and quickly say: “Sarah – how is it going is there anything you’d like to talk about, including sex?” She would just as quickly reach over and as she turned the volume up, she would say “Dad! No thanks, I’m fine.” I would then finish off most of these interactions by saying “That’s OK, please remember I am here if you need anything.” Most of the time that is as far as it went. But it built into their lives the idea that all topics were available and open. I think it has actually worked too well, because both kids, as married adults want to talk about stuff that we never wanted to talk with our parents about! Sheesh! Give me a break. That is too much information!
2. "Chatter" refers to picking out news about the topic and then having a brief conversation about it. For instance, there is a news item about abuse. I would talk about that as we watched TV and ask them about it, and discuss feelings and behaviors. I would always try to end with an encouragement that I was available to talk about that topic. Once again, keeping it in the open.
3. "Buddy" refers to always doing something in public, like going to the bathroom, with a buddy. I am always surprised to see children wandering around alone, which concerns me. I have asked kids if they knew where their parents were and encouraged them to stay close. One young lady really set me up by telling me she wasn’t supposed to talk with strangers. Good answer!
4. "Touch." When I was little, after a period of typical innocent questions about the difference between boys and girls, I announced to my mom that I had let my girlfriend help me go to the bathroom (I think I was 4-5). It was no big deal to me, and not really something I wanted to happen again, and my girlfriend felt the same way. My mom didn’t get upset, but told me that our private parts were ours alone, and we should not let anyone else touch us. I was fine with that answer. It came in handy three years later when an older (15?) boy took me on an adventure, and wanted to touch me, and have me do the same. I remembered my mom’s direction, and said no, and extricated myself from that situation. I told my parents then too, and they dealt with it. I say all of this here, just to point out that normal conversation is a good place to have these kinds of talks. Children see these conversations as part of normal interactions, and usually will respond well.
All four of these examples illustrate that we need to bring all of our experience into our normal family interactions. Maybe my examples with my own children sound kind of unusual, (my kids thought they were lame, and they tease me about what I did, but I bet they draw on those experiences with their own kids, after all, I appear to be getting just a bit smarter, as they age into adulthood.), but overall, they achieved their purpose – to have pretty open communication channels between parent and child throughout their lives. In addition to all that good stuff, you can deal with the crummy stuff too.
So, go out and normalize these topics into your own conversations with your children!
Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion
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