Since Christmas is days away and spending time with family and friends is inevitable, it’s time we talk about the importance of teaching your children the third B: Be Brave, Yell and Tell. While I understand nobody wants to discuss the topic of child sexual abuse during the joy and loving season of Christmas, I am here to push the envelope in the hopes you simply wake up to reality. Yes, I am asking you to put aside the dreams of a perfect, white Christmas and understand the reality that sexual predators do not stop abusing just because it’s Christmas. In fact, some may find opportunities during this season that are not always present otherwise (i.e., parents busy visiting, cooking, drinking with less parental awareness, cousins spending more time alone in rooms, children sleeping in living rooms on the floor, etc).
Once your children have a good idea about Body Parts and Boundaries, then move on to more information and ask, “What happens when someone doesn’t respect your boundaries and gets into your space without your permission?” We have to teach our children at the very basic level that they don’t even need to give a hug or a kiss to anybody…including, mom, dad, sister, brother, grandpa, grandma, friend, etc. It is up to them and their choice. This might be difficult for some adults, including you or your spouse, for your children to tell you that they don’t want a hug or a kiss. I want to encourage you that we need to empower and model this behavior for our children. So often parents, grandparents, family members, and friends look at a 2- year-old and only see a little 2-year-old that they want to hug and kiss. I want to challenge you to look at your 2-year-old and see a 16-year-old. What values do you want your 2-year-old to have when they are 16 years old? We want our 16-year-old to be able to say, “No” to a young boy or girl wanting to have sex with them. We want our 16-year-old’s “No,” to mean “No.” We want them to understand and firmly rely on the fact that “No” is non-negotiable, and if anyone tries to make them feel guilty for saying “No,” then they shouldn’t be around that person. Therefore, we need to train our 2-year-old to be empowered by having the same vocabulary. If your 2-year-old says, “Mommy, I don’t want a kiss right now, then our answer should automatically be, “I respect your choice; it’s your space and your choice.” There should never be a guilt trip placed on the child because when you model that type of behavior you are setting your child up for failure instead of success.
We then have to take Be Brave: Yell and Tell one step further. We have to teach our children that if someone touches their private parts or someone asks them to touch theirs, then the child needs to know and be able to verbalize the 3 steps. First, we look the person in the eyes and say, “No, this is my space.” Second, we go tell another adult or grown up right away. Lastly, it’s important to let your child know that if the touching doesn’t stop to keep telling another adult and another until someone believes them and makes it stop.
It’s also so important to let your child know that you will always believe them, always protect them, and that if someone touched them on their private parts or wanted them to touch someone else’s that it would not be their fault.
In my opinion, teaching Be Brave: Yell and Tell is a key ingredient in preventing sexual abuse. I am sure that you have already taught your 2-year-old to look both ways before crossing the street. So, it’s important for you to also see teaching this concept in the same light…yes, every child needs this information! Please don’t be in denial that this could not happen in your family. Let’s all Educate, Encourage, and Empower our children to have a voice to prevent sexual abuse not only during the holidays, but for the rest of their lives.
Image Credit: ©iStock.com/Romolo Tavani
Jennifer Hillman is a licensed speech-language pathologist, producer of the award-winning educational DVD, “The Five B’s”, mother of two and an active advocate and speaker for sexual abuse prevention education in the home, churches and in schools.
For more information on this topic and Bailey Bee Believes® award-winning educational DVD on empowering children about body safety to prevent sexual abuse, go to www.baileybeebelieves.com.