Sexual abuse prevention and keeping our children safe from all of the more basic possible risks, bumps, bruises, twists, and turns as they grow is a non-stop challenge. We plan, we research, we prepare. We watch with fear and joy, as our kids ride down the street on their bikes. They are ready with bright shiny helmets, and we have our fingers crossed. We pray for their health and safety every day. We are planners of all things safe. The list is long and ever-changing: Seatbelts, car seats, sunscreen, helmets, life jackets, hand sanitizer, baby monitors, location apps, supervision, and constant monitoring.
But, we still worry-
Sometimes, a worry becomes more than just an overactive thought. It can become an instinct or "gut feeling." It's that pit in your stomach, the sudden onset of anxiety and unease, or that feeling that something isn't right.
If you are a worrier like me, you may have experienced these "bad" feelings frequently. Sometimes you may find yourself ignoring these critical messages. Often, you may tell yourself, "you're paranoid!" or "you are just overreacting."
Often, we discount our feelings and go about the business of the day. However, we get these alert signals for a reason. Occasionally these feelings will hit you so suddenly that you know something is wrong in your world. They are warning signs that connect your emotional awareness to your intelligent thought and judgment.
We all need to value these instincts while simultaneously recognizing their power on the topic of sexual abuse prevention. Parents can teach kids how to identify their feelings and help them learn how to take action when something feels wrong.
When kids learn to identify their feelings and listen to warning signs, it can help them stay safe. Intuition can play a significant role in the fight against sexual abuse.
In our book, I Said No! We help kids learn to identify feelings,
"When anything or anybody makes a child feel, "Uncomfortable, upset, sad, angry, scared, yucky, or in danger- they should put up a red flag." A red flag is a visual warning sign for kids that they may need to proceed with caution and find a trusted adult for help.
Sexual abuse prevention books, training, best practices, screening caregivers, improving play date procedures, checking out babysitter references, eliminating the risks, knowing the facts, teaching our kids about body boundaries, and integrating sexual abuse prevention strategies are all very crucial in sexual abuse prevention. But, please don't forget the power of intuition and the gift of fear. If something doesn't feel right, it's usually NOT right. Don't doubt that maternal/paternal instinct. It is your heart and mind working together to warn you. Try to teach your child the same skills.
At times it seems that kids do a better job of connecting with intuition. Kids are often overly enmeshed with their feelings and impulses because they have not had enough time to learn how to process all of the big emotions they experience every day. They have not learned to discount their feelings or let them go. I'm sure you have seen this demonstrated by your little one. Maybe it can be seen by watching the overwhelming sense of joy they get from dressing up and singing "Let It Go!" They are present and experience pure joy and wonder, and happiness is evident.
Or, perhaps you have seen it after a disappointment or disagreement they don't understand. Saying no to candy in the store can trigger an uncontrollable, hysterical cry fest over as your little one experiences sadness, anger, and disappointment. The positive and negative emotions children experience are valid, and talking about them during and after events will help them learn how to process their emotions. These moments in parenting can be challenging but full of teachable moments.
Kids are busy doing the learning of processing their feelings and emotions. Because of this, it is essential to teach our little ones the concept of identifying feelings and listening to their inner voice. When children can determine their feelings, talk about feelings, and listen to their intuition, they are more prepared to communicate and express their needs and problems to adults. It is our job to support them with love and continued open communication as they learn.
When parents integrate sexual abuse prevention education to this formula, the outcome is impressive. The result is a mindful, knowledgeable family with multi-tiered prevention strategies, open communication, and a family safety plan. Sexual abusers are less likely to choose a victim who is educated on sexual abuse prevention strategies and skilled at communication. A prepared child and aware family become a less attractive target.