I don’t know about you, but sometimes I tend to overcomplicate the simple. Laundry, for example. I’ve just recently learned from a much younger friend that I need not sort it.
For years, even decades, I pre-sorted laundry by color, only to try not sorting at her suggestion, and what do you know, she was right! Sorting or not makes no difference, so why complicate it?
Talking to your child about sexual abuse: Keep it simple, silly
This might seem like a strange jump, but we can say we overcomplicate many aspects of parenting in the same way.
Talking to your child about sexual abuse and about protecting their bodies is one of the things that previous generations of parents have tended to ignore or complicate. It’s time to stop doing both by allowing our littles to ask, answer, and react in their own way.
One of the ways I think we complicate the sexual abuse talk and talking to young children about their bodies is by allowing our own fears to get in the way. “It’s too hard,” or “It’s too scary,” shouldn’t have a place in our vocabulary if you’re wondering how to talk to your child about sexual abuse and how to allow them to do the same.
It turns out that children with the language and the permission to talk about abuse are among the safest children. So, TALK ABOUT IT!
Talking to your child about sexual abuse means preventing it
To talk to your child about child sexual abuse is one of the most effective tools to combat it. When we keep the lines of communication open for our children, we equip them with the tools to protect themselves from this ACE.
People who sexually abuse children count on their silence, their inability to talk about it, and our lack of involvement. So, talk to your child about sexual abuse, keep talking about it, and realize that talking openly with your children about personal safety and boundaries means they will come to you as their primary source of information and protection.
How to start the talk to your child about sexual abuse?
The “talk” about child sexual abuse isn’t really a “talk” but an open and running dialogue, not merely a one-time event. Give your children the tools they need:
- Proper language to talk about sex and sexual abuse, and
- Your permission to do so.
Talking to your child about sexual abuse sheds light on a topic that thrives on being kept in the dark and hidden. The more we talk about it, the more light we shed, and the safer all of our children are.
Establishing trust with kids and teaching boundaries
Children need to know and trust that they can and should say no when something makes them uncomfortable. This unlocks the how to talk to your child about sexual abuse.
One great example of this is when relatives or friends try to force a hug, kiss, or even a handshake with our kids. When we force physical affection of any sort on our children, we set a dangerous precedent. We teach our children that their instincts are not valid, and their bodies are not their own.
No matter how young, every person should be able to choose when or even if to offer physical contact and affection to others. Once we’ve blurred those lines, teaching our littles to trust their instincts and protect their bodies is more challenging.
What should a good parent teach their kid to protect them from child sexual abuse?
- We need to tell our littles they can and should say NO when they feel uncertain or uncomfortable.
- We need to tell our kids that they should talk to us anytime they feel overwhelmed or unsure.
- We need to teach our kids proper names for body parts.
- We need to teach our children the critical difference between a surprise (something to be revealed) and a secret (something to be hidden), and teach them to let us know if anyone asks them to keep a secret.
Hope lies in good parenting practices
I believe people in my generation improved our parenting, for the most part, after the precedent set by our parents and theirs. Each generation learns a little more, processes a little differently, and hopefully, sets the generation after theirs on a less complicated, better path.
My smart, young friend with littles of her own taught me something about precedent the other day, which gave me immense hope for her children and our collective communities.
One of her precious littles was pulling the hood of my sweater over my eyes, and I was gently saying something to the effect of Lala doesn’t like that, please don’t. The aforementioned little did not stop, and finally, I stopped asking, thinking: Well, in the scheme of things, that’s not a big deal.
This sweet little mama said, “No means no. Just because Lala is bigger than you doesn’t mean you don’t have to listen to her about her body.”
Hood pulling stopped. The little stood up, shrugged, and said, “I’m sorry, Lala, that wasn’t kind.”
End of story.
No means no; whether you are talking about yourself or others, respect that boundary. That was a quick, simple, uncomplicated lesson in that brief interaction.
Our children want to learn; if only we would teach them. Stop complicating it and just get started by keeping the body/boundary talk and sexual abuse talk open. Peace.
You can help make sure child sexual abuse never happens to another child. Learn how by subscribing to our newsletter and supporting our work. Read about the ten categories of ACEs by following our blog. Do you know your ACE score? Take the ACE test here.
Editor, Ask Lala
Laura Fogarty writes “Ask Lala” for the Stop Abuse Campaign. She is a mother, an advocate and the author of two children’s abuse prevention books: I’M THE BOSS OF ME! and WE ARE JUST ALIKE!