Every day in April, I’ll be posting a video about one of the questions in my guide, (Over) 100 Questions To Ask Your Kids About Sexuality. The guide is free and if you don’t have it, you can get it by clicking here. Trigger/Content Warning: This post contains non-graphic mention of childhood sexual abuse. Today’s topic is probably the most serious of any that I’ll tackle in this series. I don’t think any of us who care about the kids in our families or our classrooms ever want to think about them being abused or victimized. But the reality is, that sometimes people hurt children. And if that happens, they need help. So today’s question is for the children in your life: “If someone hurts you, or touches you in a way that makes you feel scared, angry or sad, who can help you?” Look for the helpers Like I said, this can be really tough to think about as a parent, but we don’t have to telegraph our concerns to our children. For the most part, we’re helping them identify people that they like and trust. In many ways, this is a positive talk.
And while getting help in an abusive or dangerous situation is tremendously important, these are also people your child may be able to rely on in less sinister situations like if they’ve hurt themselves, they feel sick, or they have a problem they want to talk about.
Try not to influence your child's list. Instead, let them take the lead on naming their trusted people. Their list might include:
- Older siblings
- Other family members
- Family friends
- A teacher or principal
Abuse isn't good for you. In terms of sexual and personal safety, gently remind kids that if a touch feels bad, they can always tell someone. Now all kids will have some physical experiences they don’t like. For example, most kids hate being vaccinated because they have to get needles and those things hurt!
But the pain of being vaccinated isn’t the same as being abused. You can explain that although something like a needle hurts, it's good for them because the medicine from the needle helps your child's body stay strong and healthy. When people are being abusive, they’re doing things to our body we don’t want AND that aren’t good for us. Grown-ups should never touch in secret. You can also let your children know that a grown-up or older person, like a babysitter or even a family member, should never, ever touch them and then ask them to keep it a secret. Let them know that if that happens, it’s important to tell even if the grown-up told them not to. Also, let them know you won’t ever be mad at them for telling you. You can also be clear that it’s okay to tell at any time. Sometimes if someone does something to us that feels weird or bad we feel shocked or confused and we might not tell right away. That's okay and again, that's not their fault. Let them know that it's never too late or the wrong time to tell a trusted grown-up if they need help.
Finally, let your children know that it’s never, ever their fault if a grown-up or older person does something harmful or abusive. No one ever deserves or causes someone else to hurt them.