In today's post we're going to address safety tips for parents and some warning signs in children. As I have already addressed in a previous post, talk to your children and teach them how to respond in specific situations.
Safety Tips for Parents:
- Network with your child's friends and their parents to safeguard all children in your community.
- Do not let your child spend time in an unsupervised home.
- If your child prefers to spend a lot of time at a neighbor's home, find out why and with whom.
- Teach your child to go to a cashier, security guard or store employee if separated from you in a public place.
- Have your child pay attention to their surroundings.
- Teach your children to verify credentials of people when approached. (Children can politely explain they've been taught this--no one who is legitimate will protest or coerce.)
- Teach child regarding an abduction to yell: "This is NOT my mom/dad" or "I don't know this person" rather than "help" or "let me go."
- Make sure all sleep-overs are supervised by a trusted adult.
- Play "what if" games to prep your children: "what if a stranger offers you a ride home or asks you to help find a lost puppy?"
- Choose a secret password as a family to be used in an emergency. (Person who says they are authorized to pick up child from event/school must know and say password.)
Listen & Observe
Children typically show signs--it's whether or not we as parents/adults are paying attention to them.
Children of all ages may show physical, emotional, and behavioral signs. Sexually precocious behavior or language which is not age appropriate can be a red flag. If you observe such signs and suspect sexual abuse, have the child seen by a professional who specializes in child sexual abuse.
Please note that one of the great dangers in providing a list of behavioral indicators of abuse is that those reading the list will make inappropriate conclusions on the basis of the list alone. If you have any concerns regarding your child or a child within your family or community, please consult a knowledgeable professional in your area prior to contacting authorities. Professionals, such as therapists and child protection workers are trained in assessment and can inform you of the legal obligations in your state.
For Children of all ages:
If a child is overly responsive, preoccupied, or precocious in sexual matters by their behavior, verbal content, or interest level this may be indicative of abuse or exposure to explicit material.
If a child is under responsive, fearful, day-dreaming or spaced out when appropriate sexual information is being discussed (ie. educational movie, book), this may be indicative of abuse or exposure to explicit material.
· sexualized behavior (explicit sex play, excessive masturbation, inserting objects in sexual areas)
· fear of being alone, fear of rest rooms, showers, baths
· being uncomfortable around previously trusted person
· nightmares, difficulty sleeping
· dramatic personality changes
· clinging behavior
· moodiness, excessive crying or fear
· uncharacteristic hyperactivity
· passive, withdrawn behavior
· bladder problems/genital irritation
School age Children (5-12)(least likely to report)
(Some of the same indicators as above with the following additions)
· specific knowledge of sexual facts/terms beyond age appropriateness
· wearing multiple layers of clothing, especially to bed
· frequent tardiness, absence from school
· eating disorders
· self-consciousness behavior, especially about body
· parentified behavior
· touching to either extreme (no touch, excessive touch)
· fear of being alone with men or boys
· poor hygiene (attempts to make self undesirable)
· child acquires toy/money with no explanation
· change in sleeping habits
· regressive behavior (infantile)
· difficulty in school (concentration, hyperactivity)
· running away, especially in child that is not usually a behavior problem
(Most likely to report if they have a safe environment to disclose. Unfortunately, they are the least likely to be believed because they may be acting out in socially inappropriate ways and because they are thought to have enough information to fabricate allegations. Most adolescents are not molested for the first time at this age. There are usually prior incidents that have gone unreported.)
(Some of previously noted signs also may be present)
· sexualized, seductive, promiscuous behavior
· drug, alcohol use
· suicidal gestures, attempts
· self-mutilation, cutting
· eating disorders, obesity
· delinquent behavior, running away
· school problems (academic or behavioral)
· defiance or compliance to an extreme
· friends tend to be older
· constant fear or anxiety
· extreme hostility toward a parent, relative, caretaker or authority figures
· wearing multiple layers of clothing
· aggressive behavior (especially in boys)
· sleeping abnormalities (insomnia, hypersomnia)
· female reproductive infections/ menstrual abnormalities
· physical symptoms (headaches, stomach problems, anxiety attacks)
Finally, I tell parents to "trust their gut"-if it doesn't feel right, check it out and take steps of protection for yourself and your child. It may or may not warrant an accusation.
And finally, tell others in your family/community about behaviors that are of concern.
In my next post:
Make a Plan