did you know April was child abuse prevention month? well, until i came across this post at Beauty through Imperfection, neither did i. Paula’s post is intensely personal, heartbreaking, and inspiring. i found this call to action especially touching:
“Parents, please teach your children about abuse. What it looks like, how sneaky abusers can be and what kids should do if they are being abused. Don’t just assume you can protect them. Don’t just warn them of the situations that you think they might face and keep them ignorant of others. Equip them to protect themselves. Prepare them for it, help them know what to do, who to call and how to stop it. Let them know that they have the power to say who can and cannot touch their bodies, let them know that they can say speak up, even if it’s about a person they trust or some one in authority. Don’t expect them to just know what to do. Don’t assume that you can protect them forever, because you can’t.”
Jason and i often talk about how to talk to children about difficult topics like these, and i have to admit, i am often shying away and thinking, “they’re too young. i don’t want to stress them out.” but the truth is, i do want to protect them, and there will be times when i won’t physically be there to do it. so how do you talk to your kids about difficult things such as child abuse? here are a few things we have done.
1) take the time to lovingly teach appropriate behavior in the home, and remind them that this is the behavior you expect outside the home. for example: when my kids hit, tease, etc. i tell them it’s inappropriate and they need to respect each other and themselves. i repeat the words my mother often said in our home, “i don’t expect you to (hit, grab, tease, bully) and you should never let anyone do that to you.” i feel like this approach helped me to value and stick up for myself, so i try to pass that along to the next generation.
2) teach the appropriate anatomical names for body parts. this is advice i’ve seen, heard, read, time and time again. and yet, i was totally intimidated to implement it in my home. i was not raised using these words, and it has been uncomfortable. but a few years ago, i read an article explaining that a predator is likely to be scared off by a child using the anatomical names, and that cinched it for me. we have taught the kids to shout, “don’t touch my vagina/penis!” to anyone who attempts this. (and i pray they actually do) push through your own discomfort with words like penis and vagina, for the sake of your children. (yes, it will be humiliating when your two year old calls you a “penis-nipple”, but this just gives you an opportunity to teach that name calling is rude.)
3) teach them that their bodies are special and private. we believe that our bodies are sacred gifts from God. we teach this in our home, and at church. when i have quiet moments with my children, i like to remind them and discuss with them the sacred nature of their bodies. my hope is that as they understand the gift their bodies are, they will respect them, and not allow another person to disrespect them.
so far, these are the tactics we have employed in our home to prevent child abuse. i think it’s important to absorb and utilize as much information as possible on the subject in order to do your best to protect your children. so i will take this month as a reminder to grow in this area, and revitalize our efforts to educate and protect our children.