Parents may feel uncomfortable discussing sexual abuse with their young children, but it is an important topic to address. Openly discussing sexuality and proper physical contact teaches your child about healthy boundaries and behavior. Your child will also feel more comfortable bringing issues to your attention. How should you talk to your child about healthy interactions and abuse?
- Speak openly about their body. You should openly discuss the human body with your child. If you refuse to speak about sexual organs, your child will not understand what they are and how to keep them private. Open discussion encourages your child to ask you questions about their sexuality. This helps them grow as they learn how to take care of their physical and emotional health. It also starts a positive trend of open dialog as your child matures and eventually needs to discuss tricky topics such as alcohol, drug use and relationships.
- Help your child set boundaries. Your child needs to know that certain areas of the human body are private. Let them know that they are in charge of their body, and can tell other people “no” if anyone tries to violate their privacy. Children need to understand that authority figures do not have a right to touch them or engage in unwanted physical contact.
- Let your child refuse unwanted contact. If your child feels uncomfortable hugging a friend or family member, let them dictate the interaction. Never force your child to engage in unwanted physical contact, no matter how innocent it may seem. Telling your child that they must engage in physical contact can confuse them if someone tries to take advantage of them.
- Remain aware of your child’s activities. Keeping involved in your child’s day-to-day life is one of the best ways to prevent sexual abuse. Ask who they are interacting with, and make an effort to meet key people in their life. In 90 percent of sexual abuse cases, the child knows the individual who abuses them. Ask questions about your child’s day, what happened and who they spent time with.
- Make sure that your child feels safe. Your child needs to know that they can come to you with any problem without fear of punishment. Abusers commonly threaten their victims that something bad will happen to them if they tell another person about the abuse. Speaking with you should be a safe space. You are their best advocate who will help them solve their problem.
Sexual abuse is a scary topic that is hard to discuss. Realize that discussing abuse helps protect your child and equip them with the knowledge to keep them safe. In a previous post we described warning signs of sexual abuse. If your child exhibits any of these signs, contact an attorney who can pursue justice on your child’s behalf, and prevent further abuse.