The typical first question that many parents ask me regarding student sexual abuse is the following:
I have kids whose ages range from 6 years old to 14 years old. It is very uncomfortable to tell my 6 year old to watch out for an abuser…and, in some ways. even harder to tell my 14 year old. How do I even bring it up?
We as caring parents have to broach the unbroachable and learn how to speak the unspeakable in order to keep it from happening to our kids. We are inundated with real life accounts of school staff , adults and other students violating kids everyday. The biggest obstacle to our kids safety is our hesitancy and silence to address this topic.
Simply start talking with your child as young as 18 months when teaching body parts. “This is your body. This is your tummy and your penis and your bottom…” etc. If you find you haven’t yet started the conversation no matter what age your child, simply start.
This video in under 2 minutes will break the ice and get your kids talking to you easily.
A six-year-old will respond to this funny video and so will your teenager.
Pantosaurus is a likable dino kid who sings about “what is in your pants belongs only to you”. He teaches kids to tell if anyone looks or asks to touch in their pants and keep it secret. Pantosaurus encourages kids to find a trusted person to tell.
Allow your teen to “mock” it but use it as a springboard. You’ve broken the ice and now you can discuss clear expectations and boundaries for your child.
Purchase books on the subject of abuse prevention and leave them around the house.
Another wonderful way to bring up topics of body safety is to purchase books and either directly or indirectly introduce them. I have done both in our household and they both work well. Sometimes I simply lay the books where my kids will see them and wait for them to discover them.
I have been wonderfully surprised by the thoughtful and thought-provoking responses generated from my kids and not from me! Two possible books are:
- “I Said No!: A Kid-to-Kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private” by Kimberly King, Zachary King and Sue Rama. Written by a mom and son in response to sticky situation he encountered with another child, this helps empower kids with response phrases and what to do if the adult they are seeking help from doesn’t respond.
Discuss stories in the media regarding abuse.
District Deeds has a page on this blog called “The San Diego Unified Student Abuse Report”. Use the media stories to discuss scenarios with your children. When you read an article online or hear a news story of predation against kids, see that as an opportunity to make real world connections with your children.
Talk with your kids about what makes an adult trustworthy.
Not all adults in positions of authority respect body boundaries. Diane Cranley of www.taalk.org suggests teaching even your youngest children to respect authority figures ONLY when the authority figures respect the body boundary rules. These are the rules YOU set with your child about appropriate touching.
Cranley further encourages parents to set a no 1:1 rule.
That means not remaining in a classroom alone with any adult. Teach your child to walk out into a hallway or to the principal’s office. Any well meaning staff will respect and understand the need for this rule and should likewise want the same to protect their reputation.
Be sure to include in your discussion with your children the real possibility of other kids breaking body safety rules.
Because there is a proliferation of pornography and predation in our culture, even young victims are coming to school and acting out their own abuse on other children. We see this in the Green Elementary cases covered in District Deeds and hear of it anecdotally on an ongoing basis.
Empower your kids to be safe in school restrooms and everywhere.
Restrooms are a particularly vulnerable place and children need to know what to do if any bullying or intimidation occurs in places where the teacher doesn’t normally have a presence. Tell your kids to tell you and to report to adults at school.
Finally, be prepared to strongly support your child even if the adults in charge minimize or deny.
Demand a San Diego CITY Police investigation by a child abuse officer and don’t let the School Site or San Diego Unified District Office talk you out of it. The first inclination of the SDUSD is to minimize legal and financial risk so always keep that in mind when protecting the rights of your family when dealing with the District.
I hope you are able to use these tips to open up this important subject with your children. Thank you for reading!
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