Brienne Shaker, Family Advocate and Forensic Interviewer, Family & Children’s Center–Stepping Stones Child Advocacy Center
You have been hearing a lot about child abuse prevention lately and I bet you are asking yourself, what can I do to protect my kids? Well here is what you can do… get educated. You can educate your kids and yourselves to help protect children from child abuse.
Talk to kids. Open communication is key in protecting kids. When you are available to listen to them about even the mundane everyday things, like their favorite toy or what they had for breakfast, they are going to be more inclined to come to you if they ever have a more difficult subject to bring up.
Teach them about safe touches. Educate them about their body parts and establish what is an okay touch and a not okay touch. Abusers often times take advantage of children who are uneducated about their bodies and aren’t told what to do if anyone hurts them, makes them uncomfortable, or tries to touch them in those not okay places.
Have the conversation, but don’t frighten them. Stranger danger is a myth, in over 90% of cases the abuser is someone the child knows. So make sure that you’re explaining that its OK to talk to, wave at, and smile at people they know, as long as a trusted adult is present. And tell them that if at anytime someone is making them uncomfortable, nervous, sad, or afraid, to get away from the situation and tell a trusted adult as soon as they can.
Practice “what-if” scenarios. You’re probably wondering, well HOW can I teach them these things in a way that is useful and that they will remember? We suggest practicing “what-if” scenarios. When you practice “what-if” scenarios, you’re giving kids the tools and background knowledge necessary to know what to do when they are put in potentially risky situations.
Consider some of these:
- What if you’re waiting for mom or dad to pick you up and they are late?
- What if you get separated at the store?
- What if a neighbor asks you to come over after school by yourself?
Use tools to help communicate. If you’re nervous about talking to your kids about this subject, grab some kid-friendly books to help you deliver the message. Some great ones on the market include, “I Can Play it Safe” by Alison Feigh, “I Said NO!” by Kimberly King, “Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!)” by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos, and “Your Body Belongs to You” by Cornelia Maude Spelman. The books are available on Amazon, see the list here.
Keeping kids safe starts with adults and together, we can make a safer world for all children.