Have you thought about teaching your child about sexual abuse? It might seem nerve-wracking, but there are ways to make it easier. Here are 7 effective ways to discuss sexual abuse with your child!
7 Highly-Effective Ways to Discuss Sexual Abuse with Your Child
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It is harrowing to think that we live in a world where young children need to learn about sexual abuse. As sad as it is, there are a few things that we, as parents, can do to help our children thrive amidst such challenging circumstances. It is vital to discuss sexual abuse with your child, in clear and age-appropriate ways.
Does this seem like a daunting task? I hear you. You are not alone in feeling that way! So, to help you out, we have researched and found 7 highly-effective ways to discuss sexual abuse with your child. Don’t make it awkward. Don’t do it begrudgingly. This is a special opportunity to connect with your child and to let them know that you will always be there for them.
Start When They are Young
There is no set age limit to begin teaching your children about sexual abuse. These conversations can begin when your child shows interest or curiosity in learning about their own body parts. A 3-year-old might say, “Mommy, how come you look like that, but I don’t?” Although you might be tempted to cringe and ignore the question, it is important to answer.
Speak to your children in clear language, using the correct terminology for each body part. Explain to them that there are areas of their body that no one else is allowed to touch, even if they are friends or family members.
It is never too early to teach your children that their bodies are sacred and that no one should be allowed to touch them. The earlier you start, the better. If children are used to discussing sex and abuse with you from an early age, it will not seem so taboo as the children get older.
More than a One-Time Conversation
The most important part of discussing sexual abuse with your child is that it is NOT a one-time conversation. This isn’t middle school gym class, this is parenthood. Either set aside time each month or take advantage of teaching opportunities as they come up.
Keeping an open line of communication about sex and sexual abuse will build a sense of trust between you and your child, and they will be more likely to come to you if anything were to happen.
RELATED ARTICLE: How to Talk to Your Child About Sex
It is perfectly fine to discuss sexual abuse or other issues day-to-day if your child has questions or concerns. Be careful to not act alarmed or ashamed- your child will pick up on these emotions and will learn that they should be ashamed of such talk (this is how topics become “taboo”).
The more reminders you give your children, the more likely they will be to remember the information you have taught them- especially when they find themselves in a tricky situation.
Be Involved in Your Child’s Life
Do you know where your children are at? What they are doing? Who they are with? Have you spent time with their friends to get to know them?
These are just a few questions you might ask yourself, to think about how involved you are in your child’s life. Being involved in your child’s life means that you know who they are spending time with, and you know what they are doing. This doesn’t mean you have to be a helicopter parent. It means that you should be aware of what is happening in your child’s life.
Being involved in your child’s life shows that you care. When children feel loved, they will feel safe opening up to you about anything. You need to be that safe place for your child.
Eliminate Guilt/Fear of Getting in Trouble
When children are sexually abused, they feel extreme guilt and fear. They feel guilty that they let something like this happen, or maybe guilty that the touches felt good. They are fearful that they will be punished if they tell their parents what happened. Maybe they are afraid that the perpetrator will hurt them again if they tell.
These emotions, fear, and guilt, are often what prevent children from telling someone that they were sexually abused.
Parents, this is where you can step up to the plate.
Tell your children that they will NEVER get in trouble if they are sexually abused. Explain to them, in plain and clear terms, that they are not at fault. No matter what, they have nothing to be ashamed of.
Take away your child’s fear of getting in trouble, and help them eliminate the guilt. Sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault.
Who are the Perpetrators?
Are you ready to be shocked? 90% of sexual abuse incidents are perpetrated by someone that the victim knows. You heard that right. These could be friends, relatives, or neighbors. Children need to learn more than “stranger danger”. Someone very close to them could be the ones who sexually abuse them.
Make sure your children know that anyone could harm them sexually, not just strangers. If they know that friends and family can be perpetrators, too, they won’t be so embarrassed telling you if something does happen.
Don’t be afraid to tell them the statistic shared above. Children need to know the facts, no matter how unpleasant.
Teach Them to Say “NO”
Saying no isn’t easy for anyone. There is a lot of shame, guilt, and pressure involved with saying “no”. Moms- I know you don’t always say no when you should, but listen up! You have got to set an example for your children. Say no to extra responsibilities, and let your children see you occasionally say “no” to something that you just can’t handle. If your kids see you do it, they will know that it is ok. (Check out our post on how saying “no” saved my family right here!)
Tell them that they can say “no” to anyone who asks them to do something that makes them uncomfortable. They can say “no” to friends, family members, or neighbors. They should not feel pressured into saying “yes”. No matter what! Help them learn- teach them, show them, that saying “no” is completely acceptable!
Don’t Keep Secrets
Children who have been sexually abused, or who know of someone else who has, might be keeping it secret. Let your child know that if others tell them to keep things a secret, they can always talk to you about it. Tell them that sharing the secret isn’t being a bad friend, it is actually being a good friend.
Reassure your child that you will trust them when they tell you the secret. You need to believe what they are saying, even if it seems absurd or unlikely. If you must, look into it further to find out more information until you are positive it was true or false.
What other ideas do you have for discussing sexual abuse with your child?
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Michele is a Family Life Educator with her degree in marriage and family studies. She is a mom to 5 kids and loves helping others strengthen their families! When she is not blogging she is spending time with her family and running around drinking Diet Coke trying to get everything done!