7 Tips for Speaking With Parents About Abuse

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

As someone working with children and youth in ministry, you are often put in a place to give counsel about tough topics. Many parents are desperate to learn more information about protecting their children from sexual abusers. When people know better, they tend to do better. You can be a good resource, and this can result in safer families. Be sure to reinforce that adult responsibility is key. Here are some tips for parents that you can share:

1. Stay active. Parents need to take an active role in their children’s lives. They should learn about their children’s activities and people with whom they are involved. Parents need to stay alert for possible problems.

2. Keep watch. Be on the lookout for grooming behaviors in adults who spend time with their child(ren). Warning signs include adults who frequently find ways to be alone with their child, ignore the child’s need for privacy (e.g., in the bathroom), or give gifts or money for no particular occasion. Parents should be encouraged to trust their instincts! If they feel uneasy about leaving the child with someone, don’t do it. If they are concerned about possible sexual abuse, they should ask age-appropriate questions.

3. Ask about screening and training. Make sure background checks and training are part of the process for staff and volunteers in places where their children spend time. Ensure that churches, organizations, and teams that their children are involved with minimize one-on-one time between children and adults.

4. Talk it out. Make sure the parents have an open door policy for their children, and that the children know that they can talk to the parent about anything that bothers or confuses them. Parents should educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe or uncomfortable).

5. Teach about touch. Parents should teach children the accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “okay” and “not okay.” This includes empowering children to make decisions about their own bodies, and encouraging them to say “no” when they do not want to touch or be touched by others. This includes people violating their personal space in nonsexual ways.

6. Give them the power. Parents should teach children to take care of their own bodies at age-appropriate intervals (e.g., bathing or using the bathroom) so they do not have to rely on adults or older children for help.

7. Check the screens. Parents should keep an eye on their children’s use of technology, including cell phones, iPads, computers, social sites, and messaging. They should review contact lists regularly and ask about any people they don’t recognize.