So many parents wonder when they're supposed to talk about all this and what to say. Here are a few suggestions to make it a bit easier, and more frequent of a conversation.
Mark Your Calendar!
2. The start of the school year is a good way to remind kids about what sort of behavior they should expect from their teacher, staff, and fellow students. Some schools may host a body safety seminar for student, and this is a good time to check-base with our kids about what they've learned and what they're being taught through a program.
3. Any new or reoccurring youth program - sports, scouting, camp, special lessons or tutoring, and other group activities. In these situations children are at an increased risk of abuse due to the fact that such programs increase opportunity for 1:1 situations or for children to be temporarily isolated from a group. It is important that we talk to our kids not only to recognize the risk, but also talk to the director/coaches about how they address these issues and also to raise awareness that we are aware - and our kids, too.
4. Play date, birthday party, or sleepover invitation? Yes, yes, and yes. We need to talk about body safety to our kids, assess the risk on our own, and last but not least, talk to the other parents about body safety. It's important to know who else lives in the home (guests and even other siblings), how comfortable we are with the parents, and wouldn't it be a bit more assuring to know your child will be in a home where body safety is also a priority? (More on this...)
5. Holiday or family gathering coming up? Although it may seem comfortable to have a house full of relatives, the reality is, family abusers (young and old) have not only opportunity, but trust. It may take only a few minutes to isolate a child, even with people nearby - especially when we least expect it to happen.
6. If you use a babysitter, daycare, or leave your child alone with family (even immediate family), it's prudent to be aware of how your child act before and after, and make sure the caretaker is aware and respects your family's body safety rules. Dropping by unexpectedly (or asking a neighbor or other trusted adult to do so), or coming home early may help gain a sense of what the dynamic is like when they don't expect you, and make it known that when you leave and return is not 100% predictable.
(In case you haven't noticed,reducing opportunity and sharing our knowledge of body safety with other adult is a key part of abuse prevention.)
7. Before and during a doctor's visit - it's important that children understand what they should expect during a check up, and even better - if their pediatrician reinforces body safety rules.
8. Throughout daily occurrences - bath time, toileting (when people - especially adults should have privacy), when kids are horsing around and may not respect 'stop' or 'no' from a sibling or friend. Having some human anatomy and body safety books in your regular library to present this information in a new way, is also something we recommend to keep these conversations frequent.
With the Center for Disease Control estimating that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are survivors of child sexual abuse, this is truly a threat that cannot be ignored. But empowering and protecting our children doesn't just reduce risk - it creates a stronger parent-child bond, promotes self respect and respect for others. But perhaps equally important, improved awareness and education promote a stronger sense of empathy and compassion for survivors, who not only struggle due to the abuse, but from the ignorance and apathy from those they expect and need to support them. This isn't just about our kid - it's about every child, every survivor.