LIFESTYLE NEWS - While nothing a parent or caregiver does to prevent sexual abuse is completely foolproof, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of your child becoming a victim.
Accompany your child to public places
The general rule of thumb is that a responsible adult should accompany children under the age of 12 to public places like shopping centres, public toilets, swimming pools and to their activities.
Always know where your child is and who they are with. Be aware of your surroundings. Always look out for situations or behaviours that seem suspicious or dangerous. Know your child’s friends and their parents and make sure they are reliable before you allow your child to spend time at their house.
Nurture trust and openness in your interaction and communication with your child so that he or she knows that they can tell you anything without being afraid.
Talk about their day
Encourage your children to tell you about their day. Children cannot be expected to understand when it is okay to say “no” to an adult or to run away from an adult. This would confuse them. Trust can be cultivated by regularly talking to them about their day. Casually make sure that they are comfortable chatting about any topic. This will make it easier for them to tell you if anything out of the ordinary has happened to them.
Make sure that your children know that it’s not okay for an adult to touch them in a way that does not feel right. Don’t elaborate in a way they can’t understand as this could do more harm than good. A stranger ruffling your child’s hair, telling you how cute she is, is a great teaching opportunity.
Tell this person that you don’t feel comfortable having someone you don’t know touch your child. This models to your child that it’s okay to say “no” to touch – even from outwardly “nice” people. This also gives a child ownership of their own body.
Teach your child to be assertive
Teach your child to be respectful towards adults, but not to be afraid to stand up for themselves if they should find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Make sure a child understands that being a good child doesn’t mean blind obedience to what an adult may tell them to do. They have the right to say no to anything that makes them uncomfortable.
Children are friends with other children and adults are friends with adults. Make sure that your child knows what a healthy relationship between an adult and a child looks like by your own behaviour. Adults are not interested in child companionship and friendship.
Look out for “Red flags”. Sex offenders are known to “groom” parents and children to gain their trust. They can be very charming and sly, but there are always signs that can give them away. For instance, if the person doesn’t seem to have adult friends or activities, this is a red flag. Check whether he is on the sex offender registry and report him to the authorities.
Child protection policies
Check the child protection policies at organizations that interact with your child. What is the policy on screening sports coaches? Does the organization check the sex offender registry?
Monitor online activities
The internet is a wonderful educational tool that children are increasingly expected to use to support their learning. However, the online world has a dark side. As a parent, it is your responsibility to protect your children from online as well as offline dangers. Monitor your child’s online activities.