Irene van der Zande, Kidpower.org Founder and “Doing Right by Our Kids” Co-Creator
April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month – and as adults, we need to face the realities of child abuse in order to be able to protect our kids.
But, the good news is that we do not need to pass our fears onto our children to keep them safe! In over two decades of teaching child protection and empowerment at Kidpower, we have found that talking to kids about how to be safe with touch, play, and teasing can be done in a way that is fun, rather than scary.
In order to protect themselves from sexual abuse, kids don’t need to know all the scary details of what could happen. They just need to learn what the safety rules are, how to set and respect boundaries with people they know, and how to be persistent in getting help from busy adults.
If kids learn how to stop one kind of unwanted or unsafe touch, they will develop the skills to be able to stop another. Also, most child molesters often “test” a young person’s boundaries using non-sexual touch at first, and are clever about choosing kids who won’t tell.
Kids are more likely to remember what they’ve practiced than what they’ve only been told. To give kids practice in a fun, emotionally safe way, parents can use age-appropriate situations using non-sexual examples.
- With young children, you can practice stopping a puppet from tickling them.
- With a child in sports, you can practice how to stop unwanted roughhousing when it gets too wild.
- With a child who has music or swimming lessons, you can practice how to tell someone, “It helped before when you held my hands to help me do this, but now I would rather that you just show me what to do instead of holding onto me.”
- With a teenager, you can practice how to tell someone you like as a friend that you don’t want to hold hands.
To help parents out, my collaborator Dr. Amy Tiemann and I are presenting a free “Talking about Touch and Boundaries” Starter Kit from http://www.DoingRightByOurKids.com. This kit presents Kidpower language with illustrations as an easy tool to explain the core principles and safety rules to kids in ways that are fun, not scary.
We hope you will join Dr. Amy Tiemann and myself, with Amy McCready as a parenting expert co-host, for an on-line chat about child safety at TheMotherhood.com.
Our “Keeping Kids Safe” talk http://www.themotherhood.com/talk/show/id/Keeping-Our-Kids-Safe will take place on April 17th at 1 P.M. Eastern Time. You can ask us your questions about child safety, and how to talk about it with your kids, in this live question and answer discussion. We hope you’ll join us!