Today’s post is not funny or light-hearted or cute. But, it is necessary. The story you just read, unfortunately, is not a fairytale and there is no magic spell or potion to rid the world of this monster. So, please, read today’s post right to the end and share it with parents everywhere. We may not be able to make these monsters disappear, but we can arm our children. We can educate ourselves. We don’t have to be victims.
Last week, it seemed like every time I looked at my computer, there was another story about a pedophile, that turned my stomach. I lay awake, thinking about the children’s party puppeteer in Florida who, together with a massive ring of like-minded monsters, fantasised about kidnapping, sexually assaulting and then eating children. Yes, cannibalising them. Can you imagine it? A group of monsters,meeting online and supporting each others’ sick desires.
Then there was the pre-school teacher from Denver, Colorado, who was found with a journal documenting 15 years of his encounters with the kids in his care. Again, sleepless nights, imagining those parents’ thoughts as they wonder if their children’s names are in that hideous book.
I won’t go into details, because we all know and have heard more than we ever wanted to hear about these sick members of our society who prey on our children. What I will do, is try to figure out how we don’t lock our children up in a tall tower and never let them out of our sight again. How do we somehow raise children with the same sense of adventure and independence that we had at their age, knowing that there are hideous monsters like this out there?
Pedophiles are not a new phenomenon. Of course, when we were kids there were sickos out there too. I think, however, that the internet has given them ‘permission’ to accept this part of themselves as okay. There are veritable support groups for these sickos, for crying out loud. There are pedophile rings where these monsters meet, where they get to feel like their predilections are normal, where they get tips on how to target children, groom children and get away with their sick acts. There is a brotherhood. This is the difference.
So, what can we, as parents do? It seems there is a lot we can do. In this post, I’m going to touch on some concepts for parents to know. In later posts, I’ll go into more detail. For now, here are 10 ways to empower our children:
- Don’t force your child to hug sweet Aunt Bertha. Why? we need to teach our children to trust their instincts – to listen to that inner voice that tells them that it doesn’t feel nice to be touched sometimes. Let them know that you back them up, even if it hurts the other person’s feelings. Chances are, Great Aunt Bertha isn’t a pedophile – but the lesson here is that they are allowed to choose who touches them and they have their parents’ backing to say “no”.
- Teach your children to respect authority, but to be able to say “no” if an authority figure asks them to do something that they are uncomfortable doing. The same concept applies. If they know they can say “no” and that their parents will support them and listen to them, they are less likely to be targeted. Pedophiles target children who fear authority and lack confidence to speak out.
- Show your children that you trust them. Listen to your children when they are talking. Children who feel heard are less likely to be coerced into keeping ‘bad secrets’.
- Teach your children the difference between good secrets and bad secrets. Good secrets are secrets that are meant to be told – like surprise parties, new baby siblings, the macaroni-necklace that’s being made more Mother’s Day. Bad secrets are secrets that feel bad to keep and that will never be told. They are secrets that have bad consequences attached. Tell your kids that no matter what anyone says, no matter who it is that asks them to keep bad secrets, they should never be kept. Good people will never ask kids to keep bad secrets.
- Teach your children the difference between good touch and bad touch.Good touch is simply touching that feels good – like cuddles with mum or dad. Cuddling can also feel bad – that bad feeling is your child’s instincts kicking in. Bad touch is not only sexual touching – pedophiles groom children, and often start with cuddles, back tickles and so on. If someone touches your children in any way that makes them feel bad, they have the right to say no and immediately tell.
- Never go with a stranger, ever.Drill scenarios with your children. Role play situations where a stranger might try to lure them. Brainstorm ways of dealing with it. Work out a family password for the exceptional time you may need a stranger to pick them up. Educate your kids that there are adults out there who want to harm children and teach them to be aware of their surroundings.
- Teach your kids to fight and make a noise.A brilliant word of advice I was given was to teach my kids to yell “This is a stranger!”because we have all looked at the mum or dad leaving the playground with a kicking, screaming and tantruming child and thought, “that poor parent.” That could easily be someone abducting that child. If the child was yelling that it was a stranger, we’d be more likely to take notice.
- Define boundaries.Make sure your child is aware of the roles of the adults in her life. If she understands what to expect from each person, she is also better equipped to identify when a line is being crossed.
- Give your children positive attention and lots of it. A child who is given affection and attention at home is less likely to fall for the seduction of a pedophile. That child is more aware of what good touch feels like and can more easily identify bad touch.
- Keep your eyes open.If there is someone in your life paying extraordinary attention to your child, it’s a red flag. If you know someone who regularly comments on your child’s physicality, it’s a red flag. If there’s someone in your child’s life who persistently offers to babysit, drop or fetch, take your child on outings, it’s a red flag. Of course, not all these people are pedophiles, but they are worth watching.
These are tips I have picked up after extensive research. Please add to them in the comments section. If we work together, I do believe we can give our children the tools they need to freely explore their world, not fearfully, but with confidence and joy.
If you liked this post, please don’t be shy (comments make me do a happy dance).
If you would like to have They Call Me Mummy delivered to your inbox, fill in your email address below. (I never share email addresses and I promise to never *gasp* SPAM you.)