(This is a change of pace posting. I believe this is an important topic needing to be addressed)
Much has been written and discussed about the things we can teach our children in order help them avoid being victims of a sexual predator or molester. We all know about staying away from strangers and good and bad touching. There are steps parents can take beginning early in a child’s life (and some prior to becoming a parent) that will significantly decrease the likelihood that a child will be singled out by a predator for grooming and molestation. These involve the parents learning better parenting skills and having healthier attitudes about themselves and about sex and sexuality.
It is important to have healthy coping skills and good self esteem that you want to teach to your children. Young children learn mostly by imitating behaviors and coping skills of parents and caregivers. If you have some unresolved issues including abuse issues or lack healthy coping skills and good self esteem, seek help from a professional prior to starting a family. Predators seek children with poor self esteem and those maladapted to society because they are easiest to groom. I also suggest that those planning to have a family take parenting classes in order to be better prepared for parenthood. There are many things in life you wouldn’t think of doing without some formal instruction. I believe that parents can be more affective with preparation and education.
Beginning early in life, children need to become comfortable with their bodies and learn not to be ashamed. We do this by example (for example not appearing uncomfortable if your child finds you in a state of undress) and by using the correct names for all body parts. Referring to genitals with pet names (pee pee, private parts, down there, etc.) indicates that this is a part of the body we need to feel shame about. We don’t have special names for other body parts. If someone approaches your child and tries to touch them sexually, they will better equipped to talk to you about it if they feel comfortable discussing those parts of their bodies.
A normal part of being a human being is sexuality and sex. Many parents are very uncomfortable discussing sex with their children. When a child comes to a parent with a question about the body or sex, many parents are flustered and fumble for an answer. This may come from their shame or discomfort or just not knowing how to answer the questions. This can cause a feeling that it is somehow wrong to talk about sex and can trigger shame in the child. If there is an easy flow of information regarding sex, a child is more likely to talk to a parent if they are approached by a predator. There are plenty of books and articles on how to talk to a child about sex. Also, it would be helpful for parents to overcome their own sexual hang-ups.
Children need to feel safe talking to parents about everything and anything. Honesty needs to be rewarded, not punished. They need to know that making a mistake or doing something wrong does not make them a bad person. They need to gain the understanding that making mistakes, as well as honesty is expected. Most children will feel uncomfortable when they are being groomed or approached by a predator. Make sure they feel comfortable and safe with you so they can come to you about concerns and how they feel.
Finally, be involved in your children’s lives. Know the adults they come into contact with. Talk to them and make sure they know you are very much involved in your children’s life. Children with good self-esteem, good sense of self, who feel unconditionally loved by parents, and have a healthy view of their bodies and sexuality, are much less likely to fall victim to a sexual predator.