Help Protect Your Children from Abuse

from Preventing Child Abuse (fourth edition) by Beth A. Swagman

It is not easy for parents to talk to their children about abuse. Parents do not always know what or how much to tell their children. The more children know about abuse and abusers the better they will be able to protect themselves and the more likely they will be to tell their parents what is happening to them.

Ideas to help your children

    • Start out talking about other survival information such as how to cross the street safely, petting strange animals, and so on, and include information on abuse issues.
    • Find out what your children already know. Teach your children the names for their body parts – teach them that there are parts of their bodies that are private and that no one has the right to touch them without their permission. Clear up any misconceptions.
    • Help your children practice saying no to a touch that makes them feel uncomfortable or that they don’t understand.
    • Encourage family activities like “what if” games that help your children think about new kinds of situations that could occur – activities that can help your children feel surer of their abilities to handle new situation, to trust their instincts, and to act in their own best interest.

What to tell your children

  • “Your body is your own – you don’t have to let anyone touch you or hurt you.”
  • “You have my permission to say no or ‘don’t touch me in that way’ to anyone – even a close relative or family friend.”
  • “If you get uncomfortable feelings when someone does something to you or asks you to do something to them, come and tell me.
  • “Sometimes nice people – people you know – do mean things. Respecting and ‘minding’ adults does not mean you have to do anything they ask. If you think what they are doing or asking is wrong, come and tell me.
  • “If anyone, even someone you love, threatens you or tires to bribe you into doing something you feel is not right, come and tell me.
  • “Girls don’t always have to please adults, and boys don’t always have to be brave and not run away.”
  • “Some secrets – like surprise birthday presents – are fun, but a secret that an adult says only the two of you can know is not right; come and tell me.
  • “If any person touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, come and tell me; I will believe you and protect you. It’s not your fault.”