It's often in the news these days, and Intentional Parenting means we get real with our kids about it (even though it's often uncomfortable). I'm so thankful for this month's guest! Lyneta not only grounds the issue of childhood sexual abuse in scripture but also offers practical advice for helping our kids be strong. Read more about Lyneta and connect with her at the bottom of the post.
Early in the history of man, the beautiful way God created for husband and wife to connect in intimacy got twisted into something harmful. Ever since, the enemy has been able to use even a few minutes of inappropriate sexual contact to do significant, long-term damage to the innermost spirit of any person.
Apparently, he employs this tactic often. In the United States, 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys are molested or assaulted by an adult by the time they’re 18.
Peter reminds us,
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. -1 Peter 5:8
As parents, we have to be vigilant. The best way to protect our children is to teach them the skills and knowledge they need to protect themselves, since we can’t be with them every second.
I’m a mom of adult daughters. I’m also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I want to share with you some of the principles I’ve learned as a parent about how we can protect and equip our children to prevent abuse.
Early and Often
Teaching your children what inappropriate touch means (anywhere a bathing suit covers) happens organically in day to day life. When you’re getting toddlers ready for the day or putting pajamas on at night, it’s the perfect time to remind them occasionally that they are the only ones who can touch those places, except when parents quickly wash them at bath time and during doctor visits.
Just like you teach them the names of body parts and functions, have conversations about situations in which someone would need to touch them (bathing, doctor’s office) as a natural part of their routine. As they grow, more and more age-appropriate information can be shared.
Allow your children to set their own boundaries in regard to physical contact, such as hugs and lap sitting. Tell them whatever they decide is okay with you. Assure them they’ll never be in trouble for being uncomfortable with an adult who wants more physical contact than they prefer.
This house rule doesn’t mean that a relative your child doesn’t want to hug is suspect, it merely means that you’ve handed the power to decide directly to your child. If they get the final say in physical contact from the beginning, they’ll be more likely to feel like they have a say in potentially dangerous situations in the future.
No Bad Secrets
Reassure your children they’ll never be in trouble for telling you about inappropriate contact with an adult (or even an older child). Help them understand the difference between a good secret (e.g., a Christmas present) and a bad secret (e.g. the neighbor you thought was showing him his new gaming system was actually showing him pornography).
Teach them that anyone who asks them to keep a bad secret is unsafe, and that they should tell you immediately. The more open and honest your communication is in general, the more likely they will be to confide uncomfortable circumstances.
Teach Them Diligently
Conversations about sexual abuse aren’t a “one and done.” Effective communication means weaving boundary-setting skills and self-confidence into everyday conversations so that they are capable of spotting an unsafe person or situation on their own.
Just as we teach them to love God with all their hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5), we diligently teach them that they can trust us with secrets and that we will help protect them if the need arises.
Come back next week when Lyneta answers the question: “What if I do learn that my child has been abused?”
It’s the kind of talk we wish we didn’t need to have with our children: How to Talk to Your Kids About Childhood Sexual Abuse via @LynetaS and @Carole_Sparks. #IntentionalParenting #important conversations (click to tweet)
Have you been having these sorts of conversations through the days with your children? I have’t done it as much as I should. Any other good suggestions on how to encourage our children and/or prevent such abuse? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Lyneta Smith is the author of Curtain Call: A Memoir. She writes and speaks to help others move from trauma to triumph by trusting God with their stories. She and her husband are (mostly) happy empty-nesters who live near Nashville, TN. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her spending time with her adult daughters or chatting with friends at the local coffee shop.