Young children need to know and follow four basic safety rules:
- Check First. Children should always check first with their parents or the adult in charge before doing anything, going anywhere or making any change in plans. The Check First rule removes the responsibility of decision making from the child and places it where it properly belongs on the adults who are caring for them.
- Go With Friends. Since children are safer when they are not alone, this rule is intended to improve the safety of children by encouraging them to avoid going places by themselves and call on their friends or family members to accompany them. Not only is this safer, it is generally more fun.
- It's My Body. This message empowers children to set personal limits. They should learn that, with few exceptions, no one should touch the parts of their body that are covered by their swimsuits - that they have the right to resist any inappropriate touching. It is important for children to learn the correct anatomical names for their "private parts". Children with proper language and information about telling when touched in these areas are able to express concerns clearly.
- Tell A Trusted Adult. Youngsters should be encouraged to ask a trusted adult for help anytime they feel threatened. This rule reinforces the implicit social contract between children and adults and places ultimate responsibility on adults for protecting children.
Adapted from Kids and Company: Safety Education Program (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).
Communicate With Your Teenager
As a parent, there are many things you can do to help protect your teenager from becoming a victim of sexual abuse.
- Learn the warning signs of a seductive sex offender.
- Become familiar with all aspects of school, social and extracurricular activities.
- And, most importantly, talk with your teen about sexual abuse, just as you would about such concerns as underage drinking, illegal substances and speeding.
Be interested in what your teenager is doing and especially in their adult relationships. Keep the lines of communication open by talking with them about their school projects, their friends and extracurricular activities regularly, even when they are reluctant to open up some days.
Make a point of discussing boundaries with your teen, and the kinds of behavior that are inappropriate by an adult. For example, a coach that makes sexual jokes, talks about personal problems or seems to act more like a friend or a contemporary. Teens should be encouraged to trust their instincts and recognize when they feel that their boundaries are not being respected.