Parenting is hard. I think most of my fears in life boil down to something happening to my kids. Whether it's me getting cancer and dying while leaving my kids mom-less or my kids getting cancer and having to watch them suffer through it. I worry about their hearts and souls so much. I know worrying is wrong, and honestly I am a lot better, but every once in a while that fear creeps back in big time.
A few weeks ago I wrote about learning about someone in ministry making some very bad choices and hurting lots and lots of families and children along the way. His sin is gross and disgusting and makes my stomach turn with fear. We have had numerous talks with our boys about what is not okay and is okay with their private parts. Are those conversations uncomfortable? Yes. Is it weird to talk to your boys about people touching them? Yes. Do I feel as though I'm hurting their innocence by trying to prepare them? Yes. But I refuse to sit back and let sin creep into my families life without me putting up a fight first. I'm determined to prepare my boys (and Story when she's a bit older) for the worst. Do I hate that we as parents even have to think about this? YES. YES. YES
As far as I know molestation has never affected anyone in my family, and I pray it stays that way. I pray somehow my children can be guarded from this ever affecting them. I will do my best to instill in them what is okay and not okay. We don't keep secrets from mommy and daddy. One time someone was telling my kids something and said in front of me that it was a secret and they couldn't tell me. I kindly said that we don't have secrets from mommy and daddy. I never want my kids to think that they can have secrets from us, because they have the ability to tell us everything and it will be okay.
When thinking through ways to guard our kids a few years ago, Aaron and I talked about possibly making a commitment to not leave our kids alone with a man to babysit them. At first we thought this was a little strange and weird, because I'm about 110% that anyone we would leave them with would never ever harm them, but the more we thought about it we just felt like this rule would help us if we ever had to make a hard choice with someone we didn't know very well offering to help us out with the kids. We thought about when our kids were older and the opportunity might arise to go somewhere alone with a coach or someone else and the thought of already having that rule in place was reassuring to us. We just want to guard against any form of sinful behavior manifesting itself in our home with someone.
So, we talk to our kids, we don't keep secrets, we pray diligently for them, and we don't have boy babysitters. What else could we be doing? Send me your thoughts and ideas. What do you do with your kids to help prepare them for this and guard their hearts, bodies and minds from this.
I think you are doing the right thing thus far. Keep talking to them and help the to understand that mommy and daddy are always there for them to talk about things. I gotta tell you that women also molest so you still have to keep your guard up and continually discuss things with your kids. As a molestation survivor I am really protective of son and ensure that he knows what’s ok and what’s not ok…
I know we don’t know each other very well, but Whitney and I were reading your blog and were talking about you the other day. We just so admire you for what a great and honest parent you are to your kids. Just having read your blog and observed your kids at church with how completely happy they are with you and with each other is just so encouraging to me for some reason.
As a teacher, I ALWAYS remind my students that we do not keep secrets from adults in their life (especially parents) and that teachers and parents are there to help, but not to keep secrets with.
Your blogs are such a blessing. You need to write a book girl!
Jamie this fills me with joy to read! I’m sure that will sound odd to people but, whatever:] Thank you for talking so opening with your kids and for sharing it with others.
Chris and I have had a lot of talks about protecting our kids from this evil as well. People look at me like I’m crazy when I mention we won’t be letting our kids participate in sleep overs etc. But, that’s just a battle I’m willing to fight in order to save my children from what I went through.
The only things I would add is females aren’t exempt from committing this sin and neither are other children/teenagers they know and interact with.
Also, as your kids get older talk to them about listening to their gut, even if they know a person. Even if that person is trusted by everyone. If they get a feeling in their gut that something isn’t right (the place they’re going doesn’t feel right etc.)they need to know what to do to get out of it. Trafficking isn’t reserved for kids who’ve been neglected, have run away from home, etc. It happens to great kids who come from great homes too. Theresa Flores will be speaking at a Ladies Tea Party we’re having with Stop Child Trafficking Now in August talking about how she was trafficked out of her home for two years in high school by some gang members and her family never even knew. I’d love for you to come hear her story.
I’m so so so glad you’re talking to you kids! Honestly, I just think if they know that they could never do anything that would change your love for them and that they can come tell you anything at all, you have an enormous head start on protecting them.
Gosh…I could write forever. I’ll refrain :]
Always, always, always, always, always, always (did I say “always?”) use correct terms for genitalia.
It is a major factor in whether or not children will actually tell if someone approaches them or starts to groom them for molestation. The experts definitely agree on this one. Most families use cutsie words and things that are not accurate, and sexual predators know this … use this. Children who only learn and know the correct names for all body parts are much more likely to say, “Mom, it’s kinda funny that Mr. So-and-So calls his penis a whanker.”
Which, obviously, leads you to figure out why on earth Mr. So-and-So was having that discussion with your child.
This was one of the big things they drove home with us in our foster care licensing. Sadly, children can be and are groomed quite easily and do not tell. You can know that you know that you know that your kid would tell you, but there is still a very high probability that they may not (because the vast majority of abuse is at the hands of someone they know and care about). It is usually a side conversation that brings it to light.
To get used to using correct terminology (before our kids were talking a lot), my husband and I named some small appliances after genitalia so we had to say them regularly and in conversation. Needless to say, he is quite fond of the toaster to this day. 😉
Also, we talk openly about HOW someone might try to groom a child for inappropriate contact. Once they were about 6-7, we would do role play and teach them all of the tricks-o-the-trade (so to speak): offering food or candy, needing help finding a lost puppy, offering to show the kids their new puppies, secrets from Mom and Dad, playing dress-up, etc., etc.
But, yeah, giving a little nickname to the food processor makes the process a lot more enjoyable.
As a mom this is a great area of concern for me, too. How do you approach the subject and educate without totally stealing their innocence….so hard! Do you know of any literature (books, on the web, etc) that guide parents with age appropriate conversations, etc? LOVED Christine’s comments and ideas!
My parents always taught me to “listen to your tummy”. My mom said that if I EVER had a little stomach ache when I saw someone I should leave. I remember when I was little I went to a friends house to play. For some reason her teenage brother was giving me that sick feeling in my stomach. I told the mom I wanted to call my mom and my mom came to pick me up. The other time I had that feeling was at 10 when a man attempted to kidnap my brother and I. The second I saw him my stomach said “run!”. Thankfully my brother and I were able to get out in the open before the man approached us and then we got away from him and ran to call the police.
My mom also taught me that I didn’t need to be polite to adults I didn’t know if my parents were not with me. I know that sounds crazy, but it kept me safe. She taught me that adults DO NOT need children to help them. If they asked for my help (finding a puppy, carrying groceries…) I did not need to respond politely. I could say, or even yell, no and then run away. Its better to have a rude child then a missing child.
Now in my 20s I feel like I make safer decisions then most of my friends and I think thats because of all the talks my mom had with me. She was attacked as a teenager so she was able to teach me all the little ways I can help keep myself safe. Did these talks scare me when I was little? Absolutely!! But my mom also taught me that God would be with me in scary situations and he promised to help me if something happened to me.
I’m glad to hear that you are addressing this with your kids. I met with countless families in the children’s ER who were there for a sex abuse eval. and all of them said the same things, 1. we never thought he or she was capable of that 2. I felt in my gut something wasn’t right, but couldn’t bring myself to confront it for fear I was wrong, then they would feel uncomfortable for no reason 3. I thought my child would tell me if something like that was going on.
In most cases, kids don’t tell. Even those who have great relationships with their parents and those whose parents have talked to them about it. Molesters are sick people who use different means to lure kids in, candy, threats, rewards, etc. Add to your conversation (if you don’t already) that nothing bad will happen if they tell you. Many times molesters will threaten kids that they will hurt mom or dad or them if they tell. This fact scares me the most in raising my girls. Sometimes moms would tell me their child had told them before but mom didn’t believe them. That happens more than you would expect. So, believe your child before believing anybody else.
I’ve had to really work through my fears and have actually gone to counseling to talk about how to sort through the knowledge I have as a social worker and raising my girls. We have put very specific boundaries in place that are not to be crossed by anybody, even grandmother and grandfather. We don’t allow tickling our girls legs and underarms and they do not go on walks with grandfather by themselves. We want them to really feel “this feels weird” if anybody goes near those places and tries to take them off by themselves. We also don’t leave our girls with boy babysitters.
We are blessed to work in camp ministry with several girl babysitter options, and because we hire them, we have their background checks as a bonus:)
OK, I could write for a long time. Have a great day!
I was just thinking about all of this today. Abuse has marked my extended family in a profound way and I have really struggled with a lot of fear for my kids. It’s hard because I want to have some frank discussions with my 4-year-old but I hate that he even has to know that there is such evil in this world. We have talked but I think it’s time to take it another step farther. I know that there are many female predators but I’m with you – no male will ever babysit my children. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jamie.
oh my word these comments are good. I’m so appreciative to hear your thoughts and advice.
Amanda – I too HATE that I even have to talk about this with my kids. Today at lunch we talked about how there is NOTHING they could ever do that would make us stop loving them. We then some how started talking about jail, and my kids asked what jail was. Then they wanted to know things that would get you in jail. I said a bunch of things and then said people would go to jail if they hurt little kids or touched them in places they weren’t supposed to. I HATE that I even have to say that, but I did. ugh. sin. makes me want to throw up.
Allyson – thanks for your thoughts from your perspective as a social worker. Great thoughts. To think that my kids wouldn’t want to tell me hurts my stomach. Makes me pray more!
Lindsey – love the stomach talk. We all know that feeling and we all have felt it, so explaining it to our kids to help them would be crucial. Thanks for that. Also I would have never thought to talk about how adults do NOT need kids help for anything. What a great conversation to have since it seems like predators sometimes use that to lure kids to them. Ugh. once again makes me sick to think about.
Christine – ugh … i just changed Story’s diaper and used the V word. Very uncomfortable to me, but I totally see the reasoning behind it from what you wrote. We will now be calling things what they are. I will miss the cutesie words (they are much more comfortable), but to help my kids I’ll do anything. Even tell my kids to stop playing with their …. well the P word. You know.
Erin – please invite me that tea you are talking about. i would love to go!
I am so amazed at how God is using you to protect and love your children. I am learning so much about how to parent my future children through you and Aaron and I haven’t even met you!
I would say that I agree with everything everyone else has said. They were things that I haven’t even thought about being important but as I read I could see that if I had been taught those things there are horrific events in my life that could have been avoided.
I will say that as a victim of sexual abuse I fell into the trap of “you have to keep this a secret”, I wasn’t taught to listen to my tummy which would have been a great thing because that was definitely something that I understood. I knew in my gut when I was terrified and the wrong was happening and an adult needed to know. I think that by not have secrets from your parents is a great rule to instill right now.
I can only encourage you that you are doing the right thing for your children by my past circumstances. It is horrifying that we have to think about these things when raising children, but I loved what Jill said about God being with you in scary situations. It is so true. God is with us, and teaching your children this and teaching them how to know it is true is so valuable.
Thank you so much for sharing honestly what you are learning as a mom. It is so valuable to those of us who will be moms soon.
Crapfire, I HATE that we have to talk about this as much as we should. But WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT! I’m a sexual abuse survivor and my abuser was a youth from our church who worked in the children’s ministry. I really love what everyone has said so far. We have to talk to our kids about sin and not just lying and being nice to others. But sin that can hurt us. I especially like what others have said about practicing. I remember the first time I asked Connor what he would do if someone said “Come here little boy I have some candy”. He looked at me and said sweetly “Go and get it”. But I did want to add a couple of things.
I want so bad for my kids to have a great feeling of self worth and I want them to love and be comfortable with their bodies. We try to remind our young children that although they want to run around naked we can’t and we have started to shower and bath opposite sex kids separately. We do this partly because we are foster parents and we have to, and partly because I really do want my kids to understand that their body is private and not something we share with everyone even in our own family. But at the same time I DON’T want my kids to feel like their body is dirty and that is hard to do. We used to let our youngest run around naked after baths and what not because it was so cute. But I began to think “wait that might be sending a mixed message”. So I’ve tried to remind my little want-to-be-streaker boys that we can’t show anyone our naked bodies.
My second thought is; “Moms, we have to be prayer warriors for our children”. I know we all pray for our kids, but I love the word “warrior”, because we need to look at raising our kids as a battle. I’m still learning how to do this better. And just yesterday I ordered some super-sweet bracelets that I’m going to wear (all the time) for each of my kids as a reminder to me to PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for them any second I can.
What God keeps saying to me in how to protect and guide the little ones is to remember His supremacy. Which is not the answer I want. Instead, I would like a helpful chart and acronym system on the 5 top ways to keep your kids from being hurt.
Thank God that He says no to what we want and yes to what we need. I guess what I NEED write now is to be reminded that HE is our protector, and the kids’, and we need to beg Him to move. I want these kids to grow up and blow our minds with how they love and live for Jesus.
I can also say that as a survivor of abuse, the most helpful thing God used for my healing was being at UT where people just said WHATEVER they were thinking. This opened up a world for me in which I could use scary words like sex, rape, assault, masturbation, vagina. I don’t think the kids need to know words for sinful actions that haven’t come up yet, but if someone had given me a vocabulary to use (i.e. “I was touched on my breasts by someone without my permission. It scared and upset me.”) when I was younger, I think I would have started healing when i was younger. And maybe learned how to say, “no.”
I think that’s really important too, to teach kids when they can and cannot say no. Momma says take a bath, you don’t get to say no. someone else wants to touch you in a way that you just don’t like, say no. I think this is especially hard for those persisters and the shy ones, fearing rejection or getting in trouble.
I hate that this conversation is so important and neccessary but I absolutely love that it is happening. I loved reading all of your comments. I mean that. My heart is s-o-a-r-i-n-g.
I had no adult in my life that I could talk to when these things were happening to me. I was very vulnerable because my boundaries had been destroyed and there was no one there to say “what happened is not okay”. Thus began a terrible cycle of me not being aware what my boundaries were, that it was okay to have them, and to protect them at all cost.
(Have any of you read the BOUNDARIES books by Townsend?)
Because of how things were for me, I can tell you all day what NOT to do. But, I never saw the healthy things modeled.
So, I love that you ladies are so aware and come hell or highwater you will protect your children. You’re advice is wonderful and invaluable!
Awesome Jamie. We must teach our kids about the darkness so they can be prepared and have knowledge.
The only thing I want to add is we must be on guard and cautioned about siblings and sexual abuse also. Older siblings, be it bio’s, step, or adopted can be tempted to ‘explore.’ The majority of those I know who have experienced this are females with older brothers. For the record though (and with his permission), my husband was molested by his older sisters when they would baby-sit him.
My own daughter was molested by my step son many years ago. He was 12 and she was 4. It happened while I was home. When we did find out I was devastated to think that I was so unaware, ignorant, and trusting. It changed our lives. My 4 yr old didn’t tell us when it happened because she didn’t want to get in trouble or for her brother to get in trouble. She did eventually share it with her older sister.
These days my kids are not allowed to have their siblings of opposite sex in their rooms with doors shut. Our kids, as they get older and start to become ‘aware’ of differences in anatomy, are taught to dress modestly even in the home. How I wish I had known this as a younger Mom. I use to pray for our home every night. I would pray to keep the evil outside the doors…now I pray for evil to be kept out of our hearts.
As a teacher in a Catholic school, I complete “training” on this topic and stay up to date through a website called virtus.org. A recent article was about the profiles of female offenders so I thought I would leave that link for you. There are many great articles on this site and it may be a helpful resource to the parents here.
Thank you for writing this and for helping to keep my guard up with my kids…..and all of the comments are AWESOME! The only thing I wanted to add is to really consider either males OR females as potential threats to your kids……even though the vast majority of the abused are the victims of men there are plenty of hurting women who have caused just as much harm to kids. Their abuse may look very different and more subtle than males. I think it is because God made females with the wiring to really connect and nurture children but abusers use that ability to hurt. My husband was abused by both women and men in his family….also, and this one is more obvious….even fairly large groups of kids left alone in a back bedroom can find themselves succumbing to the ideas of ONE (even slightly) older child… taking clothes off, playing “mom and dad”, “doctor” etc. I have my own kids now but I remember when I was a nanny several years ago and there were about 6 kids in a big house and the mom’s and dad’s were eating dinner and the next thing they know 2 of the kids came running out, distraught, because all of the other kids were trying to force them to take their clothes off. None of the kids were over 7 or 8.
Thank you again for writing this! Praying for your kids and mine too 🙂
Just putting out a big echo to Malissa’s comments. When we adopted two older siblings 18 months ago we had to rethink all of our household rules and have adopted the same “no closed door” policy when members of the opposite sex are in a bedroom.
This year we also had to really sit down and think about sleepovers. Our youngest (7) was invited to a sleepover of a new girl at school (a Christian school) where we did not know the family at all. We discussed whether there was something we could do (meet the parents, etc) to make us feel comfortable letting her attend and ultimately made the decision that we now have a “no sleepover” rule except for with a few families that we know REALLY well.
This means not only the parents but we also know the makeup of the rest of the family (older boys) etc. I try also to be conscious of this and when our 9 yr old daughter had her slumber bday party I sent our two boys (11) to their grandparents for the night.
What an incredible conversation! There are so many wonderful ideas here–thanks for opening up the discussion, Jamie!
The thing that came into my mind as I was reading all this is that FEMALES are frequently offenders, as well. I think as girls we think about the scary scenarios w/ male offenders, esp. since we are more vulnerable than men. I think it’s important to remember, though, that our little boys are also vulnerable to older girls/women touching them inappropriately. My husband worked with CPS when we were first married, and he is always quick to point out that women were some of the most horrific offenders.
The whole thing makes me feel sick to my stomach, but how much better to be aware, and to help our children be aware, as well! Thanks again.
All good information here. I know that women can also be abusers, but I’ve always told my kids that if for some reason they should get lost and need help (and assuming they can’t find a uniformed officer), they should look for a woman, preferably with kids, to ask for help. We also have a family password. The kids understand that if an occasion arises that would require the assistance of acquaintances or strangers, they should ask for our family password. If the person can’t give it to them, they know it’s not the real deal.