August 19, 2006 11:44 AM
Good touch/bad touch - Teaching kids to be safe
A reader recently asked me about teaching young children about good touch/bad touch - our modern euphemistic approach to sexual abuse. The problem of sexual predators has only gotten worse since the proliferation of obscene material on the Internet. Sadly, the technology which has blessed us in so many ways by making medical information, peer support, and spiritual inspiration readily available has also led to the normalization of deviant behavior.
What I mean is this: men who used to know that their actions were wrong and shameful can now not only easily access child pornography (and pornography definitely can lead to criminal activity - anyone who doesn't believe that should watch Fatal Addiction, Dr. Dobson's interview with Ted Bundy which my husband watched with our sons when they were teenagers), but they can also meet other men in cyberspace with the same deviant obsessions - a form of validation.
Whereas even a couple decades ago perverts had to seek out pornography in shameful dark and dirty places - sometimes in other towns, now it's just a click away. And someone who looks and behaves very normally on the outside can be nurturing a very dangerous addiction which can be like a time bomb.
I don't want to be an alarmist, but parents need to work very hard to protect their children. The scattered cases that receive media coverage are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the real numbers of missing and exploited children. One resource for parents is Missing Kids.
Parents need to realize that the natural tendency of kids who are molested is not to tell their parents. Think about it. In cases of accidental fires, instead of fleeing the house, children often hide in a closet if they think it's their fault. When parents get divorced, kids thing it's their fault. When youâ€™re a child your perception of the world is skewed. I know from my own experience of being molested at the age of eight that I felt dirty and disgusting but I thought there must be something wrong with me. I was in a foster home so I only saw my mother when she visited, but I would never have dreamed of telling her because I thought she would be mad at me.
Kids are like that.
In countries where citizens live under threat of rifle fire each day, I imagine parents teach their children how to be careful. In today's world, we need to equip our children to deal with the harsh reality of the dangers they face. But how to do it in a way that will not cripple them with fear or ruin their future perspective on sex?
I found two good resources out there which I have ordered myself and want to pass on to you. I don't know about you, but I read the reviews at Amazon to get a good idea of what really works for other mothers. Moms are the real experts - I mean that. Funny story: when I met Dr. Sears in person after he wrote the foreword to my first book, he said, "I should be asking you for advice - after all I only have eight children and you have 11." That was before Justin. He is a humble and sweet man whose character has obviously been shaped by his fatherhood, which gives him more credentials even than his medical degree.
But back to the resources I want to share you:
This promises to be a great help for parents. Remember, little children learn best by stories. Think of the Frances books and how they help deal with issues of sibling rivalry and selfishness.
From the School Library Journal:
A picture book that clearly instructs children on how to deal with unwanted and inappropriate touching through a heart-to-heart talk between a little boy and his mother. The author sensitively distinguishes between the loving touch we all need and "secret, deceptive, or forced touching." Children are encouraged to listen to their own feelings, assert their right to stop unwanted contact, and get help from trusted adults "even if it is supposed to be a secret." An informative foreword to adults gives valuable information on communicating personal safety to children and advice for helping those who report abuse.
There are other books suggested along with this one at Amazon. If you can't afford the books you want, ask your library to order them (oh, and while you're at it, if my books aren't in your local library, please ask them to order them too :)
Read the whole description at Amazon to see why this DVD is ranked #205 today. It sounds like just the right approach delivering information that could save your child from harm. A snippet:
Offers seven specific safety tips to keep kids safe and, with the help of real kids, details simple, concrete actions and phrases that empower kids in a variety of potentially dangerous situations. Best of all, the presentation is never scary, but always extremely funny--that means that kids ages 2 to 10 will actually enjoy learning about safety. Kudos to Julie Clark (creator of Baby Einstein) and John Walsh (host of America's Most Wanted) for creating a safety video that's highly entertaining, informative, and practical.
I have included both of these under Barbara's Picks. For those new to this site, you'll find these in the upper left sidebar - they are recommendations for resources which have benefited me and my family - kinda like a Barbara Curtis Seal of Approval.
Remember, these resources are just discussion starters. The most important thing is that the communication be open so your child will have the language and confidence to talk to you about this sensitive topic. God has given you an important job - the most important in the world. It takes a lot of work to be a good mom. But you will be glad for that work someday, I promise!
There is another EXCELLENT book on this subject (for parents), "Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)" by Gavin DeBecker. He also wrote another wonderful book called "The Gift of Fear", about women, safety, and listening to your intuition.
I can't recommend it enough!
Posted by: Lisa Stauber | August 20, 2006 9:50 PM
Thanks, Barbara! Great advice as always.
Also -- my two-year-old daughter LOVES the DVD you recommended. I didn't expect to show it to her, but I had gotten it free and she wanted to watch it so we watched it as a family.
She literally dances around our house singing "Safe Side Super Chick!!!!" and we talk openly (and comfortably) about what do to if someone knocks on the door ("Get a grown-up!"); about "don't-know's" and "kinda-know's" and it's really great.
I've been blessed and I'm grateful for the "language" to talk about this stuff even with a toddler. (This is particularly true b/c we fly a lot--like today via O'Hare and MSP--and Sophie really does a great job staying with us, "freezing!" if we call her, understanding that we have to be able to see her at all times ... but really not thinking about it or worrying about it. Just like a budget, the boundaries give freedow and she can just relax, be happy, and have her wonderful toddler fun.)
Thanks again for the great recommendations.
-- Tara Barthel
Posted by: Tara Barthel | August 21, 2006 8:19 AM
Thank you so much Barbara and fellow posters! As a new mom just starting out and kind of bumbling my way through with this, you have helped me immensely!!
Posted by: Kristy | August 21, 2006 9:02 AM