Saturday, July 20, 2013

Protect My Kids?

As I have spoken to different groups, the question I hear the most is how do I protect my own children? I'm no expert. I can only say what we do in our house. But it is a good starting point so...

First, I talk openly about what happened to me. I use terms that my kids can understand and only give information if I think they can handle it. I tell them that my friends daddy touched my private parts. I often talk about how it made me sad or embarrassed. I try to emphasize what happened when I finally told. I wasn't in trouble at all, in fact, my mom and dad were super proud of how brave I was and my family all believed me and were sweet and happy that I would not be hurt anymore. For my youngest, I tell mostly the happy reactions of people. For my oldest, I talk truthfully about some of the hard experiences but let him know that it was all worth it and that I was more important to my mom and dad than anything or anyone. They all know that the only person who got in trouble was skip and that he went to jail.
I have hoped to empower them. I ask before giving or getting even bed time kisses. If they don't want a hug or affection, I respect that and we often use signs or words instead of hugs. Of course, this does not happen a lot but they know it is an option. When grown ups say, "Give me a hug" it is completely their choice and they know I will back them up on it. They know they can tell even grown ups NO! about their bodies.
We don't have sleep overs. Not at our house or friends houses. I was abused nearly every time I slept over with skip's daughters. I know of one family who had a sons friend sleeping over and he got up the night and snuck in their daughters room...
I teach my kids to listen to their feelings. Often I think kids have a better "sense" about things than adults do. If my kids tell me they don't know why but a certain house, person, or situation does not feel comfortable, they know that they can tell me and I will totally support them, even if it means telling them they can't play today, just so they have mom to blame for not playing at a particular friend's house.
Basically we are open about what can happen but try not to let them think there is a scary man around every corner.
But I am realistic. Some studies say one in three girls and one in four boys will have something happen to them before age 18. And that is just those who report it. That could be abuse, rape, being shown pictures, etc. Again that's just reported. Think how much higher that number actually is.
Maybe it doesn't sound like the right way to handle things, but I want to talk to my kids about if it happens to them.
Recently my 5 year old told me that she didn't like an older neighbor boy because he kissed her wrong.  Without freaking out (outwardly) I asked her how he had kissed her. Turns out he had given her a raspberry on her cheek. (I finally exhaled.)  I told her that I was so proud that she told me and gave her lots of hugs. Someone did something she didn't like and she told me! I was one proud and happy mama!
I like to let my kids know that no grown up should ever ask them to keep secrets. I tell them that if a person touches them, it's not their fault. Also, the older person may tell them they will hurt their family, they will get in trouble, whatever. We like to laugh at what lies these things are and they are just trying to scare kids. I tell my kids that daddy is super tough and will fight the bad guy if he needs to, they would never be in trouble for telling, and we can even call the cops to help us because they sure helped me.
We often talk about how happy I am now and that Heavenly Father helped me be brave and is very proud of me.
But I know that after everything I do, it may not be enough. I am not with all 3 kids at every second. Right now they are all safe and snug in their beds but what happens tomorrow when they go outside? What happens at their friend's house or at church or school? What happens when they turn a corner and are out of my sight for 2 seconds?
I can't let myself think too much on the what if's. Every parent knows that fear and worry. I hope I have taught my kids enough. I hope they are safe. I pray numerous times a day for their safety. I just have to keep that up and let that be enough.
I hope.

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