This is the season for preparing students to go back to school. While the back to school season is usually about shopping for clothes and buying pencils and notebooks, there is also an opportunity for parents and grandparents to take steps to protect their children and grandchildren from becoming victims of sexual predators.
Children have suffered much from the sexual abuse scandals of recent years, including Catholic priest perpetrators. The victims of those horrible crimes and sins have suffered greatly. We do not want any child to suffer again.
I know it is a duty for teachers to watch for child abuse, and the rest of society can also reduce the threat to kids too. It is important to explain that even someone who seems nice might do things that are bad.
Children do not understand what sex is, and therefore do not understand what is going on when they are targeted by sexual predators.
What do we do to protect our children? The first important step is to talk to our children about private parts of the body, and how no one is allowed to touch them there.
The second part of any discussion should be that children must immediately tell parents (or a trusted adult) if anyone tries to hurt them in any way. If a child feels uneasy about someone, she must let her mom or dad know.
Parents must be aware of what is happening online too. Children should understand viewing videos and pictures of naked people (pornography) is wrong and if anyone encourages this, to tell someone they trust immediately. Sometimes sexual predators use these means to soften up their targeted victim, and so parents should be aware of this tactic.
Most child predators rely on secrecy. We must tell our kids to inform us when they feel someone is threatening them.
Of course, a parent or grandparent must not frighten the child, but a clear discussion is a good way to save the child from harm in the same way a fire drill helps.
Adults should follow their gut instinct too. If a child’s behavior changes, then ask him if anyone is bothering him.
As an elementary teacher, I tend to question why an adult non-family member would spend a great deal of time with a particular child. Perhaps it may be innocent, but it is a good idea to keep an eye on the situation.
Parents have a right and duty to be cautious. It’s the best way to protect kids. Don’t let things go, instead, follow-up with a line of questions about who your child is spending his or her time with. And don’t ignore a change of behavior. Kids need to be separated from those adults who make the parent or child feel uneasy. There doesn’t need to be an explanation, just stop letting the person who makes you or your child uncomfortable have access.
Kids, even teens, cannot protect themselves. A gentle talk about sexual abuse is vital. Silence in the case of child protection is not golden.