Monday, December 16, 2013
Though the holidays seem to be the season in which kindness abounds, kindness should be a part of the very nature of our everyday lives. Before retiring from teaching, one of the projects that I assigned my students each year was my Random Acts of Kindness lesson plan. I required the students, for a period of two weeks, to practice at least 6 random acts of kindness. Three of those acts were to be acts of kindness demonstrated to a stranger (with all precautions for safety and parental guidance being taken into consideration). I also asked the students to introduce an element of “paying it forward” in hopes that the recipient of their act of kindness would respond by doing an act of kindness for someone else. At the end of the two- week project, the students were to report to the class what their acts of kindness were and what, if anything, the responses were.
Of course some students took it more seriously than others, and the project was a success with them. With others, I decided, it was going to be a work in progress. I persisted in doing the project each year, though, as I saw it as a way of helping children to look outside of themselves and their own little worlds to see that kindness and compassion should always be an important priority. I wanted them to realize that even one little kindness can make a difference in someone’s day and, yes, possibly even in their lives.
In learning of a new study about small acts of kindness, I feel that my student project over the years may not have been an exercise in futility. New research conducted jointly by the University of B. C. and the University of California found that children who perform their small acts of kindness tend to bolster their own sense of happiness and well being. The researchers also surmised that such acts of kindness may even help to counteract bullying behavior.
Approximately 400 Vancouver elementary schoolchildren were asked to report on their happiness after four weeks of participating in one of two scenarios. One group of the nine to 11-year-olds were asked by their teachers to perform acts of kindness, such as sharing their lunch or giving their mom a hug if she appeared stressed. The second group was asked to keep track of pleasant places they visited, such as a playground or their grandparents’ house. While both groups reported a boost in happiness, the children who were kind said they wanted to work with a higher number of classmates on school activities.
The study found that being kind had some real benefits to the happiness of the students. It also had some real benefits to the school community and community at large. Professor Kimberly Schonert-Reichl stated that those findings mean it’s likely teachers can create a sense of connectedness in the classroom simply by asking students to think about how they can act kindly to others and that may help reduce bullying behavior.
The take-away from this is that parents and teachers can help foster the personal happiness of children, as well as make a positive impact on dealing with the bullying problem in schools by stressing to their children and students the importance of demonstrating kindness and compassion to others, and that can, in turn, help to reduce bullying behavior.
Picture credit: Bart Hickman
Monday, September 2, 2013
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was established in 1998 and is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. It requires websites to obtain parental permission before collecting any personal information from children under the age of 13. This is supposed to better protect the privacy of children and better ensure their safety from online predators. However, is it effectively doing that? A new study conducted by the Polytechnic Institute of New York University suggests otherwise.
The study claims that when online social networks restrict usage by children under the age of 13, some children are simply motivated to lie about their ages when registering for the sites. When children lie about their ages when registering for such sites, it not only puts their privacy at risk, but the privacy and protection of children who do not lie about their ages, as well.
The research team mined data from Facebook using what they referred to as “modest online crawling, computational resources, and simple data-mining practices.” In doing so, they were able to build extensive profiles on most minors at three targeted high schools in the United States. The profiles included such personal information such as full names, locations of hometowns and high schools, grade-levels, and profile pictures.
The research team suggests that such personal information could be sold to data brokers, and it could be used in phishing attacks. Worse yet, this could facilitate physical dangers to children from stalkers, predators, and potential kidnappers.
More telling still is the fact that the research study included an analysis of privacy leakage both with and without the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. They determined that attackers can actually gain more information about minors with the law in place. They suggest that social media sites could better protect the privacy and safety of children by disabling the reverse look-up of friends feature that allows anyone to find a child’s hidden information through a friend’s page. It is vital that parents and children be cognizant of the fact that that the actions of a virtual friend could compromise a child’s privacy and his safety.
Until online social networks do so, parents should be diligent in monitoring their children’s Internet use by checking periodically to see what sites they are using. This can be more readily accomplished if children’s computers are in a central location in the home where parents can more readily oversee what their children are doing on the computer.
Additional strategies to protect children from predators, both in the virtual world and the real world, can be found in my award-winning book, What Would You Do? A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe in a World of Strangers. The book is available in hardback cover through, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and through Follett, Baker & Taylor, and Ingram’s catalogues.
Picture credit: Nevit Dilmen
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Parents are justified in having concerns about the safety and privacy of their children who use social media and Smart-Phones. Some companies, websites and apps target teens and children under the age of 13 by collecting photos or geo-location data from them.
It has always been the goal of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to protect children from such targeting. New rules and updates from COPPA make the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act more relevant in the social media and mobile phone age. The new rules place additional burdens on companies that target kids under 13. The rules were enacted despite objections from industry groups.
It is mandatory now that websites and phone apps that collect photos or geo-location data from children must now obtain parental permission, putting that data in the same category as kids' email or home addresses. The COPPA updates also make firms more responsible for data collection by third parties. This was a loophole that had been exploited by marketers in the past.
The changes that parents notice may be subtle at first. Some children’s apps might begin requesting parental permissions via emails or other methods. If that would be the case, it’s important that parents make sure kids don't circumvent those rules by using fake email address to grant themselves permission
To quote, Martha Stewart’s famous line, “It’s a good thing.” At last, children’s online privacy, whether they are using a mobile phone, tablet, gaming device or computer, is protected. The new COPPA rules put parents in charge of what data can be collected from their children.
Picture credit: Vicky S
Saturday, July 20, 2013
I would like to introduce a guest blogger, Julie Katz. She is a Certified Nurtured Heart Parent Coach/Trainer who lives in Las Vegas and coaches parents and teachers, as well as conducting one-on-one sessions via phone or Skype. Her post offers my readers useful strategies and resources to help parents manage spirited, intense or undisciplined children.
Do you have children in your life who:
· appear angry or defiant?
· exhibit temper tantrums?
· do not respond to traditional discipline techniques?
Do you, as a parent:
· find yourself yelling all the time?
· feel like you’re not having any fun with your kids?
· feel stressed out or anxious?
There is an approach that can help.
The Nurtured Heart Approach™ (NHA) created by Howard Glasser, is more than just a behavior management strategy. It’s a method of parenting children with ADHD and others who are highly intense or difficult, by transforming the focus of their intensity and energy from one of ongoing opposition, negativity and failure, into one of success and achievement. It is about recognizing and reflecting successes in every moment with your child.
Traditional parenting methods may work for the average child, but are not designed for the intense child and the harder we try with these conventional methods, the worse it gets.
Once we take away the ipad, phone, TV and all other privileges, what are we left with? The truth of the matter is that the child is running the show and he isn’t afraid of us.
That’s why I created www.gettingback2greatness.com. I help families with spirited children by having the parents acknowledge and celebrate the child’s positive behaviors and reflect them back to the child, while giving no attention to the negative behaviors.
Particularly intense kids who get all of our delicious, luscious attention when they are misbehaving and breaking rules so they rise to that expectation- why would they give that up?
We as parents, accidentally energize the choices we don’t want our children to make, by giving out $100 bills in the form of our attention, focus, and relationship.
Energetically we hand out big bucks all the time. Children can feel relatively invisible when they are not breaking the rules and perceive the juicy connection when they do because the energy we give is often “upside down”.
By realizing that we are the gift being sought by our children, we can now decide how to give them our attention, energy, and relationship. We can either focus on the negative behaviors- the whining, name calling, temper tantrums and all of the other undesirable behaviors, or we can flip it right side up and energize the children for all of the non-rule breaking behaviors that they do every day. Once the adult begins to celebrate the child’s positive behaviors, the parent creates a “juicier” time-in. As the child feels “nourished” by the parent, he will use his intensity in more successful ways.
The bottom line of the NHA is that an intense or difficult child is actually an energy-challenged child who is drawn to the strongest possible texture of adult energy- he doesn't care how he gets it- he wants the $1 million check and doesn't see that there's a negative sign in front of it.
Parents and teachers need to make a child feel valued. This is accomplished by recognizing the child’s positive choices and reflecting them back to the child in these moments so they get a first-hand experience of their success.
This technique is a remarkable way of showing your child that you notice and care about many aspects of her life...It is not only a way of feeding her emotional reservoir, but of proving that she is not invisible. Indeed, many children feel they are invisible unless they are either going to the trouble of acting out or doing something exceptionally well.
Once you begin to implement this approach and the child feels “seen” - the parent will see the behaviors in their home shift and the child will show up in their greatness.
You can get more information by visiting www.gettingbacktogreatness.com. You can also call 702-461-0749. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I can remember a frightening dream that I had when my children were small. It was really more of a nightmare. I dreamed that a tornado hit where we lived, and I was unable to find my children after frantically searching through the aftermath of the storm. Those kinds of dreams give one pause. I have always been fearful for the safety of my children and all of my family in the event severe storms or any natural disaster should strike.
When children hear on the news about tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other kinds of natural disasters, they naturally become frightened. Children who have experienced such natural disasters themselves can become traumatized by the event and the destructive aftermath. Such events threaten their sense of security and normalcy.
Parents can better protect their children by knowing what to do and where to go if evacuation is necessary. Have a plan, and keep your children aware of what they need to do in the event of an emergency. Keep in touch with schools, teachers and emergency officials.
Parents can reassure children and help them cope if they have heard news reports of severe storms or any other natural disasters that took homes and lives, or if the children themselves have been traumatized by being in the path of such a natural disasters. Parents can remind children that they have an emergency plan in place that will help to better protect them. During a storm, or in the aftermath of one, remain calm.
Acknowledge and normalize their feelings and fears as being a normal reaction. Encourage them to talk about disaster-related events, and promote positive problem-solving and coping skills. Emphasize to the children their resiliency. That will help to bolster their confidence. It is also important to strengthen children’s friendships and family support network.
Picture credit: Laura Griffith
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Much of America is shocked and outraged at the not guilty verdict for George Zimmeran for killing young Trayvon Martin. What lessons can be learned from this verdict? What can parents, particularly parents of black children, teach them?
It is true that black Americans are freer now, considering the years of subjugation and discrimination. However, the Zimmerman acquittal in the death of a black teenager walking home with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea shows that America has a long way to go in the battle against racism. Despite the end of Jim Crow, it would seem that it is still socially, politically and legally acceptable to presume the guilt of nonwhite bodies. It would seem that Trayvon Martin was the one on trial rather than George Zimmerman.
W.E.B. Dubois, have you just rolled over in your grave?
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Many children harbor negative views of elderly people. Some children even fear seniors. This article will explain how to use children’s books to counteract those fears and negative stereotyping.
The Problem and the Cause of Children’s Negative Views of Elderly People
Research done by the American Association for Retired Persons, teamed with the National Academy for Teaching and Learning about Aging, found evidence that a majority of American children hold negative views of the elderly. This discovery should be no surprise. The elderly are revered in many other societies, but American society worships the young and beautiful.
It is perplexing to think that the world’s greatest country doesn’t give the aged the deference that they have earned. Testimony to this allegation is the fact that the ailing Medicare program for our senior citizens during former President Bush’s administration was sacrificed in our federal budget to tax cuts, and viable solutions for the social security situation were not being addressed.
If adults have such little veneration for the elderly, how can we expect our children to have positive views? Children truly learn what they live. However, the example adults set isn’t solely responsible for our children’s negative view of the elderly.
According to the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities, children’s views concerning older people are greatly influenced by the books, stories and verse that they are exposed to at an early age. A good example is a verse from a traditional folk song - “There was an old woman who swallowed a fly. I dunno why she swallowed the fly. Perhaps she’ll die.”
Armed with such verse, beloved as it is for its fun and nonsense, and with the portrayals of wickedness and wretchedness of older people in some Grimm or Anderson fairy tales, is it any wonder that the elderly are viewed as silly, inconsequential, and utterly disposable?
Using Children’s Literature to Promote Positive Views on Aging
It’s not as if the market for children’s literature portraying the elderly in a positive light hasn’t been tapped. There is much good literature on the market that does just that. The availability is evidenced in the extensive reading list compiled by a joint effort of the Association for Library Service to Children and
’s Center on
Aging, Health and Humanities. The
Resources section provides a link to this reading list. George Washington
Since positive reading material is available, then possibly the degree to which we are actually exposing our children to it is the crux of the problem. If the reading of such literature is not encouraged by parents, librarians, and teachers, then its potentially positive impact can’t compete with the negative impact of the age-old fairy tales entrenched in our literary culture.
After all, how familiar are our children with the positive portrayals found in books such as Grandfather’s Journey by Alan Say, or Valerie Flournoy’s The Patchwork Quilt? Can the extent of children’s exposure to such magnificent literature even compare with the number of times they’ve either read, heard or seen in film the story of Cinderella or Rumpelstiltskin?
How do we begin to address discrepancies in the degree to which children are exposed to these two types of reading material? One obvious place to begin is in the home, the school library and the classroom. Parents, teachers and librarians need to provide appropriate literature and find creative ways to employ lessons and projects using books that portray aging in a positive light and that encourage inter-generational interaction.
Annotated List of Recommended Books that Promote Positive Views of the Elderly
Stephen Gammel. 1988. 30p.Knopf, (0-394-99330-6). Song and Dance Man.
Grade level K-3: In this Caldecott winner, Grandpa, a retired former vaudeville performer, enthrals his adoring audience, his three grandchildren.
Flournoy, Valerie. The Patchwork Quilt. Illus.l by Jerry Pinkney. 1985. 32p. Dial Books for Young Readers, (0-8037-0097-0).
Grade level K-3: So that the old ways won’t be forgotten, Tanya and her grandmother together work on a patchwork quilt made from pieces of their old clothing. As Grandma explains, “A quilt can tell your whole life story.”
Giff, Patricia Reilly. Pictures of Hollis Woods. 2002. 166p. Wendy Lamb Books, (0-385-32655-6).
Grade level 5-8: Twelve-year old Hollis is taken into the foster home of Josie, an artist who inspires Josie to express herself in her own drawings. Josie is slipping into dementia, and Hollis struggles to save her relationship with this woman she has learned to love. Since students participating in a nursing home visitation project would most likely encounter dementia in some of the residents, this book would be appropriate preparatory reading.
Hamanaka, Sheila. Grandparents Song. 2003. 32p. HarperCollins, (0-688-17853-7).
Grade level K-3: Grade level K-3: This is a rhyming celebration of ancestry and our country’s diversity that tells the story of a girl who traces her ancestry back through her Native American grandparents.
Hittleman, Carol G. And Daniel R. A Grand Celebration: Grandparents in Poetry. Illus. by Kay Life. 2002. 32p. Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, (1-56397-901-2).
Grade level K-3: This poetry anthology celebrates grandparents of all ages, cultures, and degrees of energy. This selection would be great for read-alouds during observances of National Grandparents’ Day.
Hunter, Dette. 38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents. Illus. by Deirdre Betteridge. 2002. 47p. Annick Press, (1-55037-749-3).
Grade level K-3: This is a lively picture book that details 38 activities that use common materials for grandparents and grandchildren to share.
Lakin, Patricia. Grandparents Around the World. 1999. 32 p. Blackbirch Press, (1-56711- 146-7).
Grade level 3-6: This selection examines the role that grandparents play in various countries, discussing their position as the elders in their cultures.
Love, Ann and Drake, Jane. Kids and Grandparents: an Activity Book. Illus. by Heather Collins. 2000. 160p. Kids Can Press, (1-55074-784-3).
Grade level 3-6: This is a collection of more than 90 activities, crafts and recipes for children and grandparents to do together.
Mead, Alice. Junebug and the Reverend. 1998. 185p. Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, (0-374-33965-1).G
Grade level 4-6: In this sequel to Junebug, Mead, his mother and little sister Tasha have left the projects for a new home where his mother begins work as the residential manager for an apartment building for the elderly. Mead (nicknamed Junebug) is given the daily responsibility for walking an elderly emphysema patient, old Reverend Ashford.
Rotner, Shelley and Kelly, Sheila. Lots of Grandparents. Illus. by Shelley Rotner.2001.32p. Millbrook Press, (0-7613-2313-9).
Grade level K-3: Beginning with the words for grandmother and grandfather in seven different languages, this book emphasizes the foundation of racial diversity and multiculturalism, as well as the varying types and abilities of grandparents. The variety of photographs can lead to enlightening classroom discussions.
Siebolt, Jan. Doing Time Online. 2002. 88p. Whitman, (0-8075-5959-8).
Grade level 3-6: When Mitch plays a trick on an elderly neighbor, he is sentenced to one month of community service chatting twice weekly online with a local nursing home resident. Their conversations are mutually beneficial as the resident helps Mitch apologize, and Mitch helps her accept her circumstances. This is relevant reading in preparation for a nursing home visitation project.
Zindel, Paul. The Pigman. 1968. 182p. Harper Collins, (0-06-026828-X); Harper Trophy, paper, (0-06-075735-3).
Grade level YA: Two teenagers from unhappy homes tell of their bizarre relationship with an old man who they first trick and then befriend.
Picture credit: Nyobe
Monday, May 27, 2013
School will be out soon for the summer. For parents who have jobs to go to, despite summer vacation for the kiddies, this can create a problem of making sure the children are safe and properly cared for while Mom and Dad are at work. Putting the children into a day care center for the summer is one option. If you, as working parents, choose that option, there are some tips you should know to help you choose a good day care facility.
There are commercial day care centers and day care services that are provided from homes. Regardless of whether the day care center is a commercial one or a home facility, the quality of the center, the staff, and the services must be carefully inspected and investigated.
Here are some things that parents, when choosing day care for their children, should do:
· Ask about the child to staff ratio. The fewer children each staff member is responsible for, the safer your child will be. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ratio of one staff person for 3 to 5 small children and one staff member for 7 to 10 older children. Also check to be sure younger and older children are separated.
· Ask about the facilities policies on discipline, visitation, pick-up and drop-off, and other important issues. Ask if the policies are in writing and, if so, ask for a copy.
· Ask about the training and experience of the staff. Are all staff members certified in basic first aid? Are all staff members trained in child development? Are all staff members trained in identification of abused children? Are all staff members trained in preventing and treating illness and injury?
· Ask about the rules regarding frequent hand-washing. This is important in order to reduce the spread of illness among the kids. All staff members must wash their hands each time they diaper a child and before fixing meals or snacks. Staff should monitor that children was their hands after bathroom breaks and before eating food.
· Inspect for building and playground / play area safety. Are poison control phone numbers and ambulance phone numbers clearly posted? Does the playground have impact-absorbing surfaces, such as wood chips, under the swings and slides? Are young children able to get to high places? Are the children protected from strangers? Are fire drills held at least every month? Are there smoke alarms throughout the building? Does the center use space heaters? If so, are they being used properly? Are safety gates used in areas for small children? Are electric outlets covered? Are sharp corners of furniture covered? Are the toys kept clean? All washable toys should be cleaned daily with a disinfectant cleaner.
· Better ensure the safety of your children by looking for red flags that would indicate a particular center may have some problems. Here are some red flags: The staff fails to answer your questions and address your concerns. There is no way for parents to be involved in the day care practices. Your child tells you about problems or is not happy with his or her day care experience. Unexplained accidents happen more than once. There is a high rate or frequency of staff turn-over. The center can't offer you a written copy of the day care policies. Other parents tell you about problems or concerns with the day care center.
Picture credit: Afonso Lima
Monday, May 20, 2013
I am honored to introduce to my readers a guest blogger for today’s post to Child Safety. Jayneen Sanders (aka Jay Dale) is an experienced primary school teacher, editor and publisher. She is also an accomplished children’s book author, writing over 100 titles for Engage Literacy (Capstone Classroom). Jay is a strong advocate for sexual abuse prevention education and is the author of the children’s picture book on this topic: Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept.
I think you will find that her guest blog post below is very informative and offers valuable resources.
Keeping Kids Safe from Inappropriate Touch
We teach our children water safety and road safety — it is equally important to teach our children ‘body safety’ from a very young age. As both a teacher and a mother, I strongly recommend to all parents that ‘body safety’ become a normal part of your parenting conversation. The sexual abuse of children has no social boundaries, and providing children with body safety skills empowers them with knowledge of what is good and bad touch.
The statistics of 1 in 3 girls and I in 6 boys will be sexually interfered with before their 18th birthday is truly frightening, and as many experts point out, this statistic only reflects reported cases. Also 93% of children will know their perpetrator. The community’s focus has so often been on ‘stranger danger’ — however, the reality is, the perpetrator will be most likely be someone in the child’s immediate family circle and a person they know and trust.
There are a number of fantastic books available to teach children body safety skills. Children are visual learners so story is an excellent medium when broaching this subject with your child. Here are my top ten.
Top Ten Books to Empower Kids About Their Bodies
1 ‘Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept’ written by Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Craig Smith, published by Upload Publishing 2011
2 ‘My Body Belongs to Me’ written by Jill Starishevsky, illustrated by Sara Muller, published by Safety Star 2008
3 ‘Everyone’s Got a Bottom’ written by Tess Rowley, illustrated by Jodi Edwards, published by Family Planning Queensland 2007
4 ‘Matilda Learns a Valuable Lesson’ written by Holly-ann Martin, illustrated by Marilyn Fahie, published by Safe4Kids 2011
5 ‘Jasmine’s Butterflies’ written by Justine O’Malley, illustrated by Carey Lawrence, published by Protective Behaviours WA
6 ‘Amazing You’ written by Dr Gail Saltz, illustrated by Lynne Avril Cravath, published by Penguin 2005
7 ‘The Right Touch’ written by Sandy Kleven, illustrated by Jody Bergsma, published by Illumination Arts 1997
8 ‘It’s My Body’ written by Lory Freeman Girard, illustrated by Carol Deach, published by Parenting Press 1982
9 ‘I Said No!’ written by Zack and Kimberly King, illustrated by Sue Rama, published by Boulden Publishing 2008
10 ‘Your Body Belongs to You’ by Cornelia Spelman, illustrated by Teri Weidner, Albert Whitman & Company 1997
To further help parents, here is a summary of the very important body safety skills every parent should teach their child. Please note, these skills can be taught gradually and in daily conversations as your child grows.
Body Safety Skills
1. As soon as your child begins to talk and is aware of their body parts, begin to name them correctly, e.g. toes, nose, eyes, etc. Children should also know the correct names for their genitals from a young age. Try not to use ‘pet names’. This way, if a child is touched inappropriately, they can clearly state to you or a trusted adult where they have been touched.
2. Teach your child that their penis, vagina, bottom, breasts and nipples are called their ‘private parts’ and that these are their body parts that go under their swimsuit. Note: a child’s mouth is also known as a ‘private zone’.
3. Teach your child that no-one has the right to touch or ask to see their private parts (and if someone does, they must tell you or a trusted adult (or older teenager) straight away. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed. (Statistics tell us that a child will need to tell three people before they are believed.) As your child becomes older (3+) help them to identify five people they could tell. These people are part of their ‘network’.
4. Teach you child that if some-one (i.e. the perpetrator) asks them to touch their own private parts or shows their private parts to the child that this is wrong also, and that they must tell a trusted adult (or older teenager) straightaway. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed.
5. At the same time as you are discussing in appropriate touch, talk about feelings. Discuss what it feels like to be happy, sad, angry, excited, etc. Encourage your child in daily activities to talk about their feelings, e.g. ‘I felt really sad when … pushed me over.’ This way your child will be more able to verbalise how they are feeling if someone does touch them inappropriately.
6. Talk with your child about feeling ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’. Discuss times when your child might feel ‘unsafe’, e.g. being pushed down a steep slide; or ‘safe’, e.g. snuggled up on the couch reading a book with you. Children need to understand the different emotions that come with feeling ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’. For example, when feeling ‘safe’, they may feel happy and have a warm feeling inside; when feeling ‘unsafe’ they may feel scared and have a sick feeling in their tummy.
7. Discuss with your child their ‘early warning signs’ when feeling unsafe, i.e. heart racing, feeling sick in the tummy, sweaty palms, feeling like crying. Let them come up with some ideas of their own. Tell your child that they must tell you if any of their ‘early warning signs’ happen in any situation. Reinforce that you will always believe them and that they can tell you anything.
8. As your child grows, try as much as possible to discourage the keeping of secrets. (Perpetrators rely heavily on children keeping secrets.) Talk about happy surprises such as not telling Granny about her surprise birthday party and ‘bad’ secrets such as someone touching your private parts. Make sure your child knows that if someone does ask them to keep an inappropriate secret that they must tell you or someone in their network straight away.
9. Discuss with your child when it is appropriate for someone to touch their private parts, e.g. a doctor if they are sick (but making sure they know you must be in the room). Discuss with your child that if someone does touch their private parts (without you there) they have the right to say: ‘No!’ or ‘Stop!’ and outstretch their arm and hand. Children (from a very young age) need to know their body is their body and no-one has the right to touch it in appropriately.
Lastly, sexual abuse prevention education is not only a parent’s responsibly, it is also the community’s responsibility. Ask your child’s kinder or school if they are running such a program. If they are not, ask why not. And PLEASE lobby for it.
Note: The above points are a summary of the body safety skills your child needs to learn. If you wish to learn more, go to such organizations as Just Tell, Childhelp and Stop It Now.
Some general grooming techniques to be wary of
• Be aware of any person who wishes to spend a great deal of time with your child, seeking out their company and offering to take care of them.
• A person who pays special attention to your child, making them feel more special than any other child; providing them with special treats, presents, sweets, etc.
• A person who is always willing to help out and ‘babysit’ when you are extremely busy and pushed for time.
Note: Sexual offenders will always plan who they target, they will work hard at getting both the child and the family’s trust. They will create opportunities to be alone with children or groups of children and may well target vulnerable communities. They frequently change jobs and address to avoid detection. They will often spend a lot of time with children outside of their jobs. Sex offenders may well set up a scenario where a child has a reputation for lying so as to discredit them if they ever should disclose.
Normal sexual behavior
Children have a natural curiosity about their bodies and sex. This is normal. If you see any of the following behavior try not to react in a negative way. Sexual curiosity is how child learn about their gender. Age appropriate sexual behavior is as follows:
• babies, toddler and young children exploring their genitals and enjoying being naked
• question about why they have a penis and girls don’t (vice a versa), ie trying to work out the difference between what it is to be male and what it is to be female
• showing others their genitals
• playing doctors and nurses and/or mommies and daddies, kissing holding hands with children of a similar age
• using slang words or ‘rude’ words they have picked up
• looking at each other’s body parts (particularly children under 7, close in age and who know each other ) in mutual agreement, ie no-one is being forced to show each other’s their body parts
• as they get older, curious about where they came from; may be giggly and embarrassed about body parts discussion
Some general signs that a child (0 to 12 years) may be being sexually abuse
Note: one or more of these indicators does not mean your child is being sexually abused, but if they do show these indicators, then there is good reason to investigate further.
• overly interested in theirs or other’s genitals
• continually wants to touch private parts of other children
• instigating and/or forcing ‘sex play’ with another child (often younger, more than 3 years difference in age)
• sex play not appropriate ie oral genital contact between a 7 year old and a 4 year old
• sex play with another child happening more than once, despite careful monitoring and discussion about inappropriateness
• persistent masturbation that does not cease when told to stop
• sexualized play with dolls or toys
• sexualized play involving forced penetration of objects vaginally or anally
• chronic peeping, exposing and obscenities
• touching or rubbing against the genitals of adults or children they do not know
• persistent use of ‘dirty’ words
• describing sexual acts and sexualized behavior beyond their years
• strong body odor
• sores around the mouth
• bruising or bleeding in the genital area, bruising to breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen or thighs
• withdrawn and anxious behavior
• secretive or say they have a ‘special’ secret that they must not tell
• child or child’s friend telling you about interference directly or indirectly
• going to bed fully clothed
• increase in nightmares and sleep disturbances
• regressive behavior, for example, a return to bed-wetting or soiling
• unexplained accumulation of money and gifts
In older children (adolescents)
• self-destructive behavior such as drug dependency, suicide attempts, self-mutilation
• eating disorders
• adolescent pregnancy
• persistent running away from home
• withdrawn, angry
• pornography interest; verbally sexually aggressive obscenities