There isn't a day that goes by that you don't hear about child sexual abuse! Horrible, disturbing stories leave families feeling scared and overwhelmed. The news is full of new tragedies, school shootings, violence, and war. As parents, we are overwhelmed and it has many of us searching. Many Dads are wondering what they can do? How do they keep their kids safe in this world? It got me thinking that we need more men, and more dads to be involved. Dads are the natural protectors with a primal urge to keep the family safe. But that is not all! And we have to take this moment to help dads feel more valued and connected.
So, what can men do to get ahead of this issue for their families?
What can dads do to protect their boys and girls?
Engage in a different way: Our kids look to the men in their lives as role models. Dads are traditionally known for being a strong protectors of the traditional family. But, it is time for our dads to take on more responsibility as the challenge of keeping kids safe poses an even bigger risk. We need our dads to be tough and strong, but also soft and sensitive. Dads can show kids they care about emotional topics by engaging in conversation and being active listeners. Dads are so much more than our stereotypes. Maybe it is time for dads to step away from more traditional gender-based roles and connect in different ways?
Find ways to Connect: Storytime is a great time for dad. Reading a story before bed is one of the best moments where dads can engage and connect with kids. If this becomes a ritual before bedtime, it will become a safe time where kids and dad can form bonds of trust. There is nothing better than getting a story and a tuck-in from your dad right before bed. When dealing with difficult topics, reading one of your child's favorite books is a good way to break the ice. To introduce the topic of body safety there are a number of easy-to-read books. Click on this link to watch a dad in action. Dad’s who read
Talk about sexual abuse prevention: Although it might feel awkward- we have to get over it, for our kids. It might feel strange, uncomfortable, or weird to talk about this topic with your young children. Guess what, that is what the abusers are counting on. The gift of silence is an abuser's prize. If you don’t verse yourself and your kids on this topic it will put them at an increased risk. We have to get over the icky feelings and start talking. Why? Because although sexual abuse prevention is an adult responsibility, educated kids on this topic will be safer and less of a target. It’s ok for dads to get involved with all of these topics.
Dads can volunteer! This is so important. And many dads connect in this way. Volunteer to be the coach to your little girl's softball team, Sunday school teacher for your son’s class, or at school. We need way more dads at school. Your presence at school is a deterrent. When dads volunteer at schools, organizations, or activities, their presence alone reduces the risk. Also worth noting: Pedophiles disproportionately targeted children with absent fathers. So be present and get involved. A great dad-founded organization that already exists based on this knowledge is Watch Dog Dads
Verify the safety policies of all organizations where you leave your kids. Check out all organizations where your kids are involved. Make sure all groups have a sexual abuse prevention mission statement and follow appropriate procedures to keep kids safe. If they don’t have safe practices and policies… don’t leave your kids there. Eliminate the risk. Or ask for training programs to be implemented.
Listen to a recent podcast on this topic with me and Renee Reina, PhD. on
The MomRoom. Dads are welcome too!
Be curious about the media your kids are consuming. Dads can take responsibility for monitoring online safety. The danger of online sexual predators lurks around every corner. Prepare yourself against this threat by researching how to protect your kids online. A great resource for parents can be found at Protect Young Minds.
Dads can learn open communication techniques- when your child comes to you with a problem or complaint don’t close them off. Sometimes kids will report sexual abuse in a roundabout, Indirect way by saying something like,
“My gym teacher is weird and mean”.
Instead of reacting and saying, “don’t talk like that about your teacher”
try an open communication technique.
Ask Why? Or say, that sounds tough, tell me more.
This is the key to understanding your child and developing healthy lines of communication for all topics. If you don’t ask them why you may be missing something incredibly important. When kids know adults are really listening, they feel so much more confident. When reporting abuse young children don’t usually come right out and say it because they are scared or confused.
In my years as a teacher, I received 7 reports of abuse from children. None of those reports included, “ Miss King- my cousins made me touch his private parts last night.'
It sounded more like,
“ Miss King, I hate when my cousin comes over”.
Your moment is here...Don’t miss it!
Instead of saying, “that’s silly, be nice, he’s your cousin”, ask
“Why? Or say tell me more”.
Get creative with communication.
Start a family journal where parents and kids can write to each other and ask/answer questions.
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO ALL OF
YOU AMAZING DADS!
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