Child sexual abuse happens all the time and it’s gut-wrenching. And child-on-child sexual abuse is on the rise. This growing crisis is fueled by pornography. But there are some things you CAN DO as a parent to protect your child. Teaching simple body safety rules and empowering kids to reject pornography are powerful ways to safeguard your family.
5 body safety rules you can teach before school
Body safety talks can start before your kids even go to school. Here are some rules to go over with your young child:
- We use the actual names of private body parts: penis for boys, vagina, vulva and breasts for girls, and anus and buttocks for both.
- We talk about the differences between an appropriate touch and an inappropriate touch.
- We ask for consent (and wait for a reply) before showing affection. No means no and stop means stop.
- We don’t keep secrets; surprises are okay because everyone finds out sooner than later.
- We each have a body safety network– I’ve identified 5 people I could talk to if someone breaks a body safety rule.
For more details on these rules, be sure to read our 5 Body Safety Rules Every 5-Year-Old Should Know.
If your kids are older and you haven’t taught these rules, it’s not too late! Body safety talks can start today.
4 body safety rules for grade schoolers
As your child grows older and comes into contact with more people, these body safety talks can be extended.
Here are four body safety rules to discuss with your grade school child.
1. Consider having the first (of many) sex talks with your child before kindergarten.
Katie Bingham-Smith, a mom of three, shares how not one, but two of her children first heard about sex from other kids within the first few weeks of kindergarten. Before her third child entered school, she had a few talks with him about his body and sex.
I listened and watched for signs that he was “done” with our talk while making sure my voice was the first he heard on this subject.
Having an age-appropriate conversation about sex with your child arms them with information.
- Sex is a topic discussed at home, not school.
- How to recognize inappropriate conversations, pictures, or videos that could be shown to them at recess or a friend’s home. Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds provides an easy way to have this conversation AND gives kids a plan so they know what to do.
- Don’t know where to start? Books are a great way to begin! Here are some suggestions: Let’s Talk About Sex: 8 Books to Read Together
2. Authority figures: respect should go both ways
Grade school age kids begin to spend time with many different authority figures: teachers, coaches, tutors, babysitters…It takes a village to raise a child! These mentors will likely have a positive impact on your child. But some may not.
As your kids start working with other adults, be sure to talk with them about their time spent with each adult.
- Ask your child questions to get to know how he feels about the person and what they talk about.
- We often tell our kids to show respect to authority figures, but make sure they know the respect should go both ways.
- Discuss the boundaries that should not be crossed with an authority figure.
- Make sure your child knows to tell you if an authority figure (or anyone) initiates physical contact, talks about inappropriate things or tries to communicate with them without your knowledge. Depending on the severity of the interaction, you’ll want to confront the person or directly report to the police.
- If you or your child feel uncomfortable with an interaction that has taken place, this article from Defend Innocence has great tips on how to kindly confront someone about their behavior.
3. Watch out for bribes and special treatment
Teach your kids to be cautious of people who give them things for no reason. Sometimes groomers will give gifts to get close to your child.
- Tell your children it is not their fault if they accept something from someone who later pressures them to do something they know is wrong.
- Let your child know they can always tell you, without fear of getting in trouble, if someone mistreats them (or threatens to).
- Point out sometimes other kids might be the ones to try and persuade them to do something wrong.
- Role play with your child what they would do if a “friend” said, “You can join my club if you…” or “You can be my friend only after touching my…”.
- Explain to your child that private part games are never appropriate; if a friend asks them to play one, tell an adult.
4. Strangers: yes, they can be a danger…
Statistics tell us that 93% of the time, child victims of sexual abuse actually know their abuser. That’s why it is so important for parents to be involved and know the people their child spends time with. Talk to your child about this statistic! They deserve to know that people within a trusted circle sometimes turn out to be untrustworthy.
For the 7% of the time that strangers are the perpetrator, it’s critical to give your kids practical tips on how to protect themselves from strangers.
- The buddy system is always a good idea. If your child walks home from school, help them find another child to walk with.
- If a car starts following your child and your child has an uncomfortable feeling, encourage them to turn around and run the opposite direction for help. This gives them extra time because the car will have to turn all the way around.
- Sometimes your child might need help from a stranger. Have you ever been separated in a public place? Scary! Tell your child ahead of time to ask for help from a mom with kids.
More amazing resources for teaching about body safety:
Here are some of our favorite resources for teaching children about body safety:
- Protect Young Minds Body Safety Toolkit
- This great read aloud book by Kimberly King: I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private
- Simply Safe Kids: Online sexual abuse prevention training courses for parents, schools, camps and organizations.
- The Mama Bear Effect: a non-profit organization which raises awareness about child sexual abuse, and provides prevention education.
Minimizing dangerous situations in grade school
While a main part of prevention is focused on education of children, there is a lot protective adults can do to avoid putting children into situations that may jeopardize their safety.–Adrienne Simeon of The Mama Bear Effect
Think about all the times your child is not with you–daycare, school, babysitters, friends’ homes, sports, music lessons…
Mentally walk through a day in the life of your child and identify areas where you may need to better address their safety.
Do what you can to minimize one-on-one situations.
- If a piano teacher does not allow parents to stay during the lesson, ask why and explain that you do everything you can to protect your child from abuse.
- Ask your child’s school teacher if students are ever tutored individually by a TA; if the answer is yes, are they tutored behind a closed door? Kindly request they are tutored in the hallway or some other public area.
Talk with your child about their body safety network each year. The list of 3-5 people your child can talk to about abuse may need to be updated. The beginning of each school year is a great time to do this because there’s often a shift in who your child is spending time with. For example, your child might want to swap out last year’s teacher for this year’s teacher.
Keep on being a great parent! Educating yourself about issues like child sexual abuse is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child.
Grab your FREE Body SafetyToolkit!
Use our 5 role-play situations to practice what kids can do, think, and say to protect themselves in red flag situations.