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3 Conversations to have with your children to protect them from abuse

serious, mom, child, daughter, worried

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 02/09/23

These are the 3 things I frequently tell my children to help safeguard them against abuse as best I can.

It’s an awful thing to think about, but our children’s safety is not guaranteed. As much as we strive and work to keep them safe, there is still a risk that they will encounter people with evil intentions.

Even something that seems as fun and innocent as an after-school club or neighborhood play date can be potentially dangerous.

We don’t know if other adults have predatory intentions, or even if children have been victims of abuse and may act out what they have endured on other children: In fact, a little-known fact is that about 1/3 of all child sexual abuse victimization occurs between people who are both under the age of 18, and that can include young children. 

I’m not an expert, but I am a mom who cares a lot about keeping my young children safe, and I’ve read extensively about this topic online. These are the three things I frequently tell my children to help safeguard and protect them against abuse as best I can.

1“We don’t keep secrets in our family”

I say this one a lot, and I’ve been glad to hear my kids tell their friends, “I don’t keep secrets from my mom and dad!” 

I tell them, “Yes, we do surprises. But with a surprise, you tell the person eventually. We don’t do secrets. You can always tell Daddy and me anything, no matter what.”

We also talk about the related concept of “tricky people,” meaning people who seem nice on the outside but are not safe to be around on the inside. This means a “person asking them to do something that doesn’t sound right or … trying to get them to break one of their family’s safety rules or trick them.” A common example is an adult they don’t know asking children for help. 

And again, I always remind them, “Tell me and Dad right away if someone tells you to keep something secret from us.”

2“We don’t touch people if they don’t want us to, and no one is allowed to touch you without your permission”

Even something as simple as tickling or hugging is a no-go if the other person doesn’t want it. 

Relatedly, I go over the concept of “safe touch,” which includes the following:

Explain to your kid that it’s not OK:

for someone to show you their private parts

for someone to lie on you or kiss you 

to touch someone else’s private parts

for someone to touch his/her own private parts in front of you

for someone to ask you to touch his/her private parts

for someone to ask you to take your clothes off or take videos or photos while naked

for someone to show you videos or photos of naked people

For older children who may have access to the internet, you might also read the book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures (also available in a junior edition), which addresses safe and unsafe images online.

3“If someone tries to do those things to you, you have my permission to yell for help, run away, etc.”

Abuse thrives in secrecy. Make sure your child knows that they have permission to immediately and loudly expose this kind of behavior. 

I have even gone so far as to tell my kids that they can punch and kick and scream if someone tries to do that to them. In my opinion, it’s an act of self-defense, and one of the very few situations in which violence is totally justified.

And of course, I make sure to tell them that I will always back them up and support them in defending themselves against unsafe touch and tricky people.

Those are the three conversations I make sure to review regularly with my kids. It’s not a fun topic, and I sure wish I didn’t have to. But it’s better safe than sorry.

Sadly, in today’s world, unsafe situations are scarily common. Statistics show that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse, and that’s just the cases that are reported. 

I want to safeguard my kids as best I can, and these conversations are a really important way to do that.

AbuseCatholic LifestyleChildrenParenting
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