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The Surprising Side of Child Safety

by Pattie Fitzgerald

Attending a parent workshop on how to prevent childhood sexual abuse sounds about as much fun as having a double root canal. Frequently, parents come in gritting their teeth – convinced that I’m going to scare the life out of them and be the bearer of terrible news. Boy, are they relieved when it actually turns out to be a lot more cheerful and optimistic than they anticipated!

While the subject of preventing childhood sexual abuse is a most serious topic, parents are often pleasantly surprised to find a certain level of light-heartedness and humor as they learn valuable skills to protect their kids. Personally, I have never subscribed to the “doom & gloom” approach, and as research has proven time and again, humor is a most effective way to reach people and ensure a high level of retention.

Most often, our humor is pointed at ourselves -- the lengths to which we worry about our kids, what others may think of our parenting style, and how will we ever face our friends and family again once our child has announced at the latest holiday dinner that “boys and girls go pee-pee different!”

It’s true – kids say the darndest things. And that’s good! The more we can encourage our children, no matter what age they may be, to speak up, ask questions, express their feelings, and trust their own instincts, the better chance we have of protecting them from predators.

Let’s give our kids permission to say what’s on their minds without fear of being scolded or embarrassed. Communication is vital in keeping kids safe from predators. In particular, kids need to know that they don’t always have to be polite – especially in situations that might feel “yucky”, unsafe, or uncomfortable. It could make all the difference in the world.

Tips to Remember:

— 90 percent of childhood sexual abuse occurs by someone the child knows and has an established relationship with – NOT by a stranger.
— Pedophiles and molesters often target children who they feel they can intimidate into keeping their secret.
— A “loud mouth” child – that is one who speaks his mind freely, feels confident, and likes to make proclamations to the world is a predator’s worst nightmare. Those are the kids who will tell right away. Predators know this.
— Young children should be taught that “they are the boss of their bodies.” This means they have the right to decide how and when they want to express (or not express) affection including hugs, kisses, and any other form of physical contact.
— Remind your child that they can feel safe telling you if anyone ever makes them feel “yucky” or “uncomfortable.”

For more information, or to book your own workshop, call 310-203-1330.

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