As a parent, you have a moral responsibility to protect your children from sexual predators. And you can start by practicing several techniques with your children to help them understand sexual abuse and what they must do to protect themselves. But first, you must establish clear family rules for safe touches and repeat them often, because children learn best from repetition. Also, remember that younger children require simpler explanations than older children. Address each child in an age-appropriate way and make sure each one understands the lessons you're trying to teach.
The "what if" game
One way to practice the rules for safety is by role-playing different scenarios. You can call it the "what if" game and make it easy and fun to practice responding to dangerous situations. For example, you would ask your children a question and then provide the correct answer. Make sure they understand the answer and why it is important. Next time, ask your children the question and wait for them to respond with the rehearsed answer, calmly supplying the answer when they forget all or part of it. Practice often but in a low-pressure manner until your children learn the answers without your prompt.
Here are a few examples of questions and answers you can go over with your children:
Q: What if someone touches you (even someone you know) in a way you don't like and offers you something you really want, such as candy or a toy, to keep it secret?
A: Say, "I don't want it," then get away from that person as fast as you can. Tell a parent, teacher, police officer or other grown-up what happened. You should never keep secrets from your parents.
Q: What if someone touches you (even someone you know) in a way you don't like and says they will hurt you or someone you love if you tell anyone?
A: Say, "Stop touching me," and get away from that person as fast as you can. And then, even if you are really scared, tell someone what happened.
Q: If someone is bothering you at school or in the neighborhood and I am not around, who should you tell?
A: Get away from that person and then tell your teacher, babysitter, child care provider, school nurse, another parent or a police officer.
Q: What if someone you tell doesn't believe you or gets mad at you?
A: Keep telling grown-ups until someone does believe you and tell me (or the other parent). I (we) will always believe you.
Q: What if a grown-up gives you a big hug or touches you in any other way and it makes you feel bad or creepy?
A: Tell the person you don't want to be hugged and get away from them and then tell me. You can trust your feelings about the way people touch you.
Q: What if an adult does something to you that's wrong and then tells you that it was your fault?
A: Don't believe the person. Children can't cause adults to do things that are wrong. Get away from that person and tell me (or the other parent) what happened. If I'm not there, tell your teacher, school nurse, another parent or a police officer.
Help your children protect themselves from sexual abuse with the information and responses they need. Now is the perfect opportunity to start a conservation with your children about how to protect themselves from sexual abuse and end by playing the "what if" game.