Sexual predators targeting children. It’s one of my biggest fears. I’m not suppose to live in fear, so I take action. I pray for my children, and I make choices to keep them safe. My friend, Paula at Beauty through Imperfection, wrote a personal and must read article about child abuse prevention. Today I want to piggy back on her post about child abuse and talk about greeting options for kids as well as other safeguards we are putting in place to protect our children.
The idea of greeting options for kids was inspired by one of my Facebook readers. I have to say that I love interaction with my Meaningful Mama community. I hope you will join the conversation and reach out to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Periscope (my new favorite social media platform where I can broadcast live and interact with people watching – @MeaningfulMamaJ is my handle), Pinterest and Instagram. I want to connect with you! I had shared Paula’s article on my page, and a reader responded by telling me about how she has always given her children greeting options. I loved the concept. I asked if I could share the idea with my readers, and this post was born.
The thought is that we often tell children things like, “Give your grandma a kiss.” Another example is asking your child to give everyone a hug before you leave. Is this action telling our kids that they must show physical affection to someone because they are told to rather than because they feel it? I confess that I’ve forced hugs for grandparents before because I want my children to be polite, warm and learn how to show love, but is that the correct solution? My thoughts on the topic have changed after reading Paula’s article and hearing my reader’s response. We can teach our children to be polite and warm while also teaching them that they are in charge of their own bodies. Physical affection should not be insisted upon. It doesn’t equip our kids to create their own boundaries.
Greeting Options for Kids
We don’t want our children to be rude, so what are some greeting options that we can teach our kids? By being intentional in teaching these choices, we are telling our kids, “You have authority over how you are touched.” It’s important to have this conversation with kids, and this is a safe way to start the dialogue. You can still insist your child be polite by learning how to greet people, but this method gives them more control over what that looks like. Here are some greeting choices for kids:
- A Kiss
- A Front Hug
- A Side Hug
- Looking in the Eye and Saying “Goodbye,” “Hello,” “Thank you for having me,” etc.
- A High Five
- A Wave
- A Fist Bump
- A Smile and Verbal Greeting
- A Hand Shake
- Blow a Kiss
This small lesson will speak volumes to your children about how they should not allow others to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
More Choices We Make to Prevent Child Abuse
I am perfectly fine blaming myself when I am talking to other parents about some of the choices we are making to keep our kids safe. I might lite-heartedly say, “I’m just one of those overprotective parents.” It has seemed to work and people understand with everything that is going on in this world. I wouldn’t call myself a helicopter parent, but I’m setting up my kids for success in this area. Here are some preventative methods I am taking:
- Equipping Kids – We have not talked a lot about sexuality yet. I use the proper names for body parts, and we have had beginning conversations. My oldest is 8, so we will probably be starting the conversation more in depth soon. Here is a book I did read with my daughter (affiliate), and I know this book is in a series so I can read more with her. I’ve heard good things about the series, and I liked the first book so I know we will do the rest. Even though we haven’t had “the talk” yet, we have talked about modesty, private parts and how our bodies are our own. I have said that no one should be touching their bottoms, chest area, vagina or penis. We have had them practice a big bold “No!” if someone tries to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or violates their private parts. I have told them they can talk to me about anything. I have also said that there are people out there that have a very unhealthy view of the human body and do things they shouldn’t by touching other people. Equipping them with the phrases these predators might say or threaten is also important. Let them know that you, as the parent, are big enough and wise enough to protect them. They need to come directly to you or another trusted adult in the vicinity for immediate help. I give them permission to lie and say, “I won’t tell my mom” if they have already been touched inappropriately and out of their control. I have tried to present these ideas in a non-scary, matter of fact and direct way. We also equip our kids by teaching self-control (part of my character development series), modesty, and teaching them to be assertive. My kids didn’t need to be taught to be assertive, actually, it came to them pretty naturally. All of these conversations are giving my kids the tools to know what to do if they are violated and to prevent it all together.
- Respect Each Other – In our family, I have taught my kids that “no” means “no.” You stop IMMEDIATELY if someone says no. I drive this into them pretty hard and might respond with a phrase like, “Abby is in charge of her body. She said “No!” so you stop immediately.” There are consequences for disobedience in this area. I have also learned to stop too. We have tickling times, and I try and show them that when they are done I respect them and stop right when they ask. I drive home the fact that we respond to someone else’s boundaries.
- Sleep Overs – At this time we have chosen not to do sleepovers. Children are rarely abused my strangers. In fact, 90% of abuse comes from people they know. Not only do we have to worry about adults, but peer to peer abuse is also an issue. Older siblings can be a threat. We have found it easier, at this point, to say, “No sleep overs,” rather than making it a case by case decision. I have told my kids they can stay later than usual, but I will be picking them up to sleep at home. Not only is abuse a concern at sleep overs, but I think of my own childhood and all of the creepy things I was doing or discussing when spending the night at other people’s houses, and I am very uncomfortable about what that time can look like. If you want fun alternatives, why not have a few family over to your house to have a campout in the backyard together? You can go on trips or overnights with other families where the kids can stay up late together. Invite people to your house for an overnight. Have a late night pajama dance party. Just because you don’t do sleep overs at other people’s houses doesn’t mean you can’t make night life fun.
- Know Families – There is no guarantee, even with families you know. However, I get to know families pretty darn well before I send my kids over there without me. We have children over here a lot, and I like it that way. Yes, I would love the peace and quiet if the playdates were elsewhere, but I want to know my kids and their friends. There are houses I would send my kids to without a second thought. However, there are homes where I am not comfortable sending my kids. Building relationships is the key to knowing which homes feel like a safe place.
- Read Books with Your Kids – Paula recommended a book list to help talk to kids about abuse prevention. Children learn through books. I would definitely recommend reading books on the topic because it is a very approachable and non-scary way to discuss a challenging topic.
Are you inspired to start the conversation with your kids. Knowledge is powerful and this is such an important topic. Is there any way you have discussed or handled this that you would like to add? I would love to hear your thoughts.