1. One of my clients had a close call as a kid. He was nearly grabbed at a local upscale department store while his mom tried on a bathing suit and he stood outside the fitting room area.
The only thing that saved him was when he cried out when the man grasped his arm too tightly, otherwise, it would have been a tragedy. I asked him "what" (because I've learned NEVER to ask "why") it was that kept him from screaming and he said, "I was inside. I had to use my inside voice". In my mind, I was yelling, "NO, NO, NO!!!!" I asked him how he would instruct his kids on "stranger danger". He had a lot to say and he was right.
2. Because you never ever never ever never know who is a predator, your kids have to sleep in their own bed in their own room every night. No sleepovers of any kind. They can do that when they go to college
Why? Because you can't live with the consequences. You can't hand your kids over to someone you don't know or even someone you know. Predators threaten kids with killing their parents, their grandparents, their dogs and cats...anything and anybody to keep them quiet. They know all of the tricks and you, parents, you don't have a clue whatsoever.
And, if a visiting child makes an accusation about you or a family member (brother, sister, whatever), can you live with those consequences, as well?
When I was a teen and going out with my friends, my father strongly, strongly demanded that I be in by midnight. I was a good student, etc., and I had their trust, but no one else had their trust. My Dad (capitalization intended) said, "Nothing good happens after midnight". I came in once, only once after midnight. He was sitting in the rocking chair in the dark living room. When I came in, he simply got up and went to bed; he didn't say a word to me. I was crushed. Ugh. Your kid is at someone else's house after midnight.
Stick to this rule no matter what. Once you give in, it's all over..."but you let me stay at Sally's house!" and now, you've got no response. They'll learn not to ask.
3. You know that whole "they give me the creeps and I can't explain it" dynamic I talked about in the Trust Your Gut post? Well, if someone makes your kid uncomfortable, that's the end of it. They don't need to explain it and you need to listen and not ignore their feelings.
4. One day, our son asked, "Mom, can you be a psychologist for a minute and not my mother?" He was about 12. His question was about a sensitive subject and thankfully, there was a straightforward answer. When we finished the brief exchange, he announced, "OK, you can be my mom now". It occurred to me that kids need an avenue to access parents' information and wisdom without all of the emotional overlay and expectations. You know how you can ask your doctor anything and they are supposed to give you the facts without any judgment, right?
When your kid comes to you with issues big and small, be RAN...Receptive, Approachable and Nonjudgmental. That's it. As parents, you are required to have a H-U-G-E catcher's mitt. Catch it all and give your kids the information necessary to learn from experiences so that they can "adjust" their responses to situations. If you get all "nervous and jerky", they won't talk to you. If you get accusatory or shame them, they won't talk to you.
5. Teach your kids the circumstances under which they can defy and challenge adults. They can not only be assertive in situations where they feel threatened, but they need to be given permission to fight back if someone puts their hands on them. That minute while they are fighting back, might allow them the time they need to recruit help. Make sure they know they won't get into trouble for breaking things in a store or hurting someone who is trying to take them.
6. Teach them the "script" and who to choose to get help. Your child needs to approach a woman and say, "I need help" or "I'm scared". That's it. Men make up the vast majority of abusers (96%), so a woman is a better bet. If your child says they s/he needs help or they're afraid, that's all that is required. The adult will do the rest.
7. If they are being taken from a location, they need to shout, "He's not my dad!" or whatever as many times as possible so people start to question the situation. I've heard it recommended that when you are being attacked to yell "Fire" because people will naturally be concerned about their own safety.
All of these ideas have to be adjusted to your child's age and ability. It's difficult not to scare them, but if you handle it as a situation to be problem-solved without appearing fearful yourself, the message will be clear to them.
Most kids are sexually abused by a family member or someone the family knows well. Give yourself permission to not trust anyone with your child's safety and well-being. You can't live with the consequences.
It's not the Test of Twelve, so you'll have to read the book. It's a tough read, but you'll do it anyway. You'll ready some chapters more than once. Be brave. You can't be squeamish and be effective parents.
OK, have at it. TTFN, Claudia