(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.
Do you prefer your fish broiled, fried, or blackened? How about your steaks? Do you like them rare, medium, or well done? What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Are you an early riser or do you prefer to sleep in when you can? Do you tend to be attracted to slim people or someone with a little meat on their bones? I doubt that these questions or the way someone would answer them would be judged and would raise any eyebrows.
Would you agree that answers to these questions would be considered preferences? Would any of the responses be right or wrong? Would these be moral issues? All of what I have referred to is common to human experience. We would all feel comfortable discussing these things with people we know and not be concerned about being ridiculed or judged.
What makes sex and sexuality so different? The vast majority of people would be uncomfortable discussing their sexual preferences and sexuality with most of the people they know. Most would be concerned about what they said and how they said it. If they felt what they did or thought about sexually was not considered “normal” they would be even more uncomfortable discussing it. Some people are uncomfortable when the topic of sex is even brought up. There is a great deal of guilt and shame associated with sex. Even though we are all sexual beings, so much meaning is given to it that open conversation about sex is discouraged.
For centuries governments and organized religion has attempted to control and limit our sexual behaviors. This has not stopped people from engaging in sexual activity even if it is outside of what is accepted or seen as “normal.” Many laws and religious edicts have tried to restrict sexual behavior. This has created a great deal of shame about sexuality. It has not stopped the behaviors that come naturally. Before all else, we are mammals and have strong instincts around sexuality.
One of my goals is to take the discussion of sex and sexuality out of the shadows and encourage open discussion and healthy attitudes toward sex. I believe that many of the social ills we face can be more easily overcome if human sexuality was honestly discussed and shame free.
More to come…….
My work is about helping people overcome the issues that have been inhibiting them from continuing to evolve as a person. I help them change the way they think and what things mean to them. More and more I am coming to understand how being honest and open and having the willingness to see things a bit differently, opens doors to incredible change and growth. It requires taking risks and a leap of faith. I ask them to take my hand as I guide them to an unknown place. I ask them to trust that going through a process that is difficult and sometimes painful will result in finding a more rewarding life.
It seems the most shameful and damaged part of our development is sexuality. This seems to be at the center of a huge number of issues people face. This has become more and more clear to me as a do more and more work in the area of early sexual abuse and how children are socialized about sex and their bodies. We can be shamed about a great many things about us. But, our bodies and our sexuality go to the core of who we are. The damage is deep and difficult to overcome. I refer back to the beginning of this post.
“More and more I am coming to understand how being honest and open and having the willingness to see things a bit differently, open doors to incredible change and growth. It requires taking risks and a leap of faith. I ask them to take my hand as I guide them to an unknown place. I ask them to trust that going through a process that is difficult and sometimes painful will result in finding a more rewarding life.”
I see this more clearly every day.