“The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.” – Psalm 102:28
The following story is true, told to me by the mother of the little girl, who I am calling Susie. My hope is to remind parents of the importance of early education for their precious children, how to protect themselves and their bodies. Read to the end for suggested parent topics.
I received an emotional phone call from a young mother one afternoon last year. She related a situation that had just happened with her then 6 ½ year old daughter, Susie, while visiting as a family with another Christian family. After dinner, the adults were chatting downstairs and the various aged children were playing in other parts of the house. Susie was acquainted with one of the sons of the host family. He was about 2 ½ years older than her. The two of them were upstairs in the bedroom areas, alone.
Three Times “NO”
He requested Susie to take off her shirt. She said, “No!”
Then he requested she place her mouth on his genitals. She said, “No way, I am not doing that!”
He said he was going to pull down his pants. She then covered her face in the bed pillow and said, “I am not looking. Tell me when you are done doing that.”
The boy did not touch Susie or force her to do anything.
In the dark of the car while returning home, Susie told her parents about all that had happened. Although in shock, they remained calm, asking clarifying questions, and repeatedly praised her for telling them about it. They affirmed her correct responses and the wrongness of the boy’s behavior regarding respect for people’s bodies, etc.
After putting their three girls to bed that night, they fell into sobs and a sense of disbelief this had happened to their child, with another Christian family, while they were in the same house.
The distressed parents talked to social workers and counselors about what to do next. The professionals explained legal situations and options. Since the boy was not at least three years older, the official label would not be “sexual assault or abuse.” The parent’s goal was not to bring legal action, but to move forward. Clearly the young boy had himself been exposed to inappropriate sexual behaviors and needed help to change his present thinking before negatively impacting another child.
After a few days, the two sets of parents discussed what happened. It was awkward, but fruitful. The family placed the young boy in counseling with a trained child therapist and watched carefully his social activities.
Following expert advice, the parents lightly brought the topic up over the next few days with Susie to see if any additional information came to the surface. They told their daughter she could talk about this incident with her grandparents or other adults she loved and trusted, but encouraged her not to tell other children, explaining in age-level reasoning she could accept. To this day, Susie appears in every way without lasting trauma due to the careful preparation she was given years before the incident and the parents’ response after the event. Plus prayer.
Making Kids Smarter and Safer
There are many good resources available to help parents and children. Here are seven topics to consider as you prepare your young children and teens how to protect themselves from inappropriate physical encounters.
- Build a relationship of trust and intimacy with your child.
Know their world. Invest time and converse on diverse topics so nothing is too awkward or off limits. Be the grown-up. Blush but keep talking and listening.
- Present a healthy view of sex. Explain God’s good intention for sex between married couples. In age-appropriate terms, teach the correct names for body parts, not nicknames that would make it hard for them to report accurately if someone touched them.
- Set reasonable modesty boundaries. Allow for closed doors (not locked) or privacy when using the bathroom or changing clothes as bodies develop. Permit children to have input who they give physical affection to. Teach about playing with other children in public view and the all-important “NO” response when approached or touched inappropriately.
- Explain the truth of evil in the world.
Not to plant fear, but to give a context for teaching personal safety, let your children know that not all people are respectful and kind. Since most child abusers are not strangers, describe forms of abuse and help them recognize grooming actions that might come from a relative or neighbor. Explain the dangers of the internet and social media and monitor device use in the home.
- Teach safety skills.
Beginning in the preschool years, children need to know their parents’ first and last names, phone number, address, what to do if lost at a store or mall, what to do if someone offers them candy or a ride home, or to play a private “game.” Role play and practice safety scenarios with them.
- Tell the truth about secrets. It is okay to not tell mommy about a birthday surprise. Say strongly and often to your children, “It is NOT okay for someone to tell you to keep secrets from mom and dad.” Let your children know you will believe anything they tell you, that you will check it out to help them.
- Be vigilant. Watch out for your children. If you have a solid relationship with your child and you are talking about everything together then you may have a clear view into their world. But your presence is also key as their innocent perspective may miss someone giving constant, “special” attention. Investigate sleepovers carefully and never force your children to go with someone or to another home if you or they are uncomfortable.
Trust God to Help
There are no guarantees against sexual assault on your children. Laying a protective, open foundation between parents and children is the best way to prepare IF something should happen. Staying calm and communicative is the right response in all such conversations. Listen well and ask questions. Your children take their cues how to respond to life and troubles from you.
The goal is not to make them afraid, but ready to live their lives freely and carefully. Let them see you trust God and His love for all of you. Even if problems occur, He will guide you and your child to peace and healing.
♡ Gail Goolsby is a life coach and serves as a Titus Woman for Proverbs 31 Woman.
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