Talking to your child about safety and how to prevent child abuse

Talking to your child about safety and how to prevent child abuse
By Rachel Zimmerman, Project Shield Coordinator 

Summer is here.  We finally feel the warm sun and look forward to long weekend afternoons at the pool.  It is an excellent time of year to go over the basics of child safety and how to prevent abuse. 

Communicating with your child is a key strategy in preventing abuse. Here are some key messages that you can give your children:

Pay attention to your “uh-oh” feeling

“This is your internal alarm system which keeps you safe.  Pay attention when you feel butterflies in your stomach and ask a trusted adult to help you figure out what to do in those situations. But don’t ignore it!”

Your body belongs to you

The parts of your body that are covered by a bathing suit are private “No one is allowed to touch, look at, or talk about those private parts. It’s never a game to be played. Please tell me right away if someone does touch the parts of your body that are private.  I will be so proud of you if you do, because I want to help you in those situations.”

The difference between a surprise and a secret

“A surprise is okay, because I will eventually know about it.  But no adult – even a family member or teacher – should ask you to keep a secret from me. Even if they promise you a big present or threaten to hurt you if you tell, it is important that you talk to me.”

You can talk with me

“Your body and sexuality is an okay topic to talk with me about and I welcome your questions.”  It’s ok to feel nervous or uncomfortable when having conversations. Just make sure you say “If I seem anxious, it’s not because this is a not a good topic, but because it’s not something I talk about all the time. It’s important to me that I give you good information.”

So enjoy summer fun and safety. These conversations, along with many summer experiences, are a great way to leverage the most important child abuse prevention technique you have right at your fingertips: building a strong, open relationship with your children that can last a lifetime. 

For information or to schedule a speaker or workshop in this topic, please contact Community Services at JCFS Chicago, at 855-ASK-JCFS (toll free, 855.275.5237) or email ask@jcfs.org.