Sunday, January 24, 2010

keeping safe our children

This morning at the Super Family's church, a class was held for the younger aged kids and their parents on keeping the kids' bodies safe. I was happy to see that the family ministry committee makes this a focus of their teachings because it's such a critical topic to address - and keep addressing - with children in age-appropriate ways as they venture further into the world and are exposed to more people, often without their parents present. Even - and, perhaps, especially - in a church setting. Because, as we know, even there - in that most holy of places - there are unfortunately adults who prey on children.

I have never been a victim of sexual abuse, but I've known others who have been, and my heart breaks for the trauma it has caused them, trauma that lasts a lifetime, even with counseling and support. What's worse is that not everyone who sexually abuses is punished for their crime -- in fact, many are never caught, never put behind bars, and they go on to hurt more innocent children.

As a human being who understands the value of my life and my body, and particularly as a parent of another human being whose life and body I value even more than my own, I have fiercely strong feelings on this issue, and I've been talking about it with my son since he was barely more than a baby. I never wanted him to feel like he had to keep any kind of secret from me, particularly one as awful as that, and I've always wanted to make sure he knows that he can come to me with ANYTHING. I was really glad to see that this particular point was emphasized in today's teachings, with us parents telling our children that they can ALWAYS come to us if this happens to them, no matter what has happened or who has done it.

Still, as a parent, you wonder how much sticks in the mind of your young child. Super Boy is nearly 7 years old, and he certainly understands that there are parts of his body that are private, and after years of talking about keeping his body and himself safe, I sincerely hope that he knows that even when we aren't discussing it. But there's always that nagging fear deep down that forces me to consider what would happen if he ever did suffer sexual abuse and was too afraid to tell. It literally breaks my heart to think that.

There is nothing more important to me than keeping my child safe. Truly. I would take a bullet for him; I'd take a thousand bullets for him. I would rather die than see him suffer. I think most parents feel this way about their children. So I just want to share a reminder with all the parents who read my blog that if you have not talked to your child/ren about this topic before, please do so now.

Yes, it can be awkward and uncomfortable, but only if you let it be. My goal in starting to talk to my child about this when he was SO young was to make it a normal conversation for us to have, and to touch upon again at regular intervals. We've been talking about this for so long now that it isn't uncomfortable for either one of us.

Here are some of the key points to address in discussing this with your child:

1.) Their bodies are their own, and certain parts of their body - those that are covered by a bathing suit - are private.

2.) If anyone ever touches their private parts who shouldn't, or in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or bad, they need to say NO!, get away from the person, and they need to find an adult they trust to tell. And if that person does nothing, they need to keep telling until someone helps them.

3.) They should not feel guilty or as though THEY are responsible for the actions of the person hurting them. They also should not believe the person abusing them if they say something bad will happen if they tell.

4.) Parents need to remind their kids that they will ALWAYS want to know if they are being hurt this way, even if the person doing it is someone they know and like.

Again, please: If you have not had this talk with your kids, please do so, today. Better to share all this information with them BEFORE something life-altering happens than to wait until someone has already hurt them and they don't know how to handle it.

And to all those who have suffered sexual abuse, my prayers, love and thoughts of healing are with you. No one deserves to be treated that way, and it is NOT your fault. If you haven't already, please talk to someone about what happened to you and get the help you need.

As always,
Average Everyday Super Woman

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