As a mother, all you want is for your kids to be safe from harm. We watch them with our eagle eyes. We research their schools, their teachers, the day camp we send them to. We interview the people we hire to help us. We install cameras and spy and do everything we can. Just to keep them safe from harm.
And yet unfortunately, it is not enough. We hear horror stories quite often. Children who were molested even though their parents were so hands on. Nobody likes to talk about it. But someone has to.
I don’t like discussing the stories I’ve heard or what we saw on the news or on some Facebook story, but there is one question I always have on my mind.
How can we protect our children?
We obviously can’t spend every waking moment with them, but we can teach them not to be victims.
Have you ever wondered why that kid was molested? And not any of the other 20 kids with him or her? Why did the sexual predator single out this child and not that?
I’ve read a lot and spoken to a lot of professionals about this and I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned.*
First and foremost, a child needs to feel heard
If a child feels like he won’t be able to tell you something, or that you will automatically brush it off as nonsense, chances are you’ve lost them. Why should they share anything else with you? You as a parent are their safe haven. They should be at ease around you. So next time your child confesses something, relax and think about your reaction before raising your voice.
Kids need to feel safe and protected
Naturally, as parents, we do that daily. But your child needs to know that you have their back no matter what. Your child needs to truly understand that you would do anything to keep them safe. Dads can remind their little girls all the time that if anyone hurts them, they’d destroy them. Little boys need to be reminded that they have no one to fear. Fear is usually the reason why children are silenced and don’t tell their parents if they’ve been sexually molested or even if they are being bullied.
Your children need to feel loved. Hugs, kisses, compliments and smiles. All the time. Don’t be stingy with your affection. If they can’t get it from you, someone else will fill that void. This also leads to promiscuity later on. As cliché as it may sound, children who weren’t shown affection tend to grow up and enter unhealthy relationships. You know you love them more than anything, but do they?
Talk about your body
Don’t get squeamish. I’ve read a lot about the importance of referring to private parts in their anatomically correct names. I haven’t been able to do it, but I make it a point to not make my kids ashamed of their bodies. We don’t march around the house naked, but just because you have a bumbum doesn’t mean you should be embarrassed about it. Body shaming is a huge topic that we’ll discuss later.
Your child doesn’t have to give auntie a kiss
You are your child’s advocate until they are old enough to advocate for themselves. What kind of a message are you giving your child when you are forcing them to use their bodies in ways they don’t want to? They are free to decide whether or not they want to give auntie a hug or a kiss or nothing at all. Don’t let society make you fall into that trap. It isn’t rude if your three year old doesn’t want to be kissed.
Adults need to learn not to be petty. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your one year old not wanting to be carried by dad’s best friend. Do not force it. I cannot repeat this enough. Do not force your child to perform any physical acts they don’t feel comfortable with. Duh!
Finally, if God forbid, your family experiences something as awful as this, put an end to it
Do not be ashamed. Find the filthy piece of garbage and blast him or her everywhere. Call the police. Call the late night talk shows. Call your uncle. Put an end to it. What you should be ashamed of is if you do nothing and it happens again to another child. That is totally on you. Spare someone else the pain and heartbreak you’ve experienced.
* I am not a professional. You still need to follow your gut instinct, but I hope this helps.
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