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11 Rules That Can Protect Your Kids From Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse happens more often in the warmer months. Help protect your kids with these tips.

11 Rules That Can Protect Your Kids From Sexual Abuse

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Warm weather means more time spent outdoors—and thank goodness. It also means that kids will interact more with other children, family friends and potentially, strangers, depending on their age. We all want to keep our children safe, no matter the season, but studies show and experts will tell you that cases of child sexual abuse rise with the temperature.

And it makes sense. Kids often get more freedom in the summer and they may be enrolled in camps and programs where they'll interact with new people. There are also more outdoor gatherings, visits to parks and other scenarios where you may not be by their side the whole time. It may feel uncomfortable to broach such a heavy subject with your children, but it’s far better to take preventative measures than to wish you had. To ensure your child’s safety this spring and summer, guide them through this spring safety checklist:

Use the buddy system during unsupervised outdoor time

This one is a classic because it works. Summer is a great time to introduce new freedoms and a bit of independence. If your child is going to be out and about without consistent adult supervision, make it clear that they should never be truly alone. They should always have a “buddy” who can account for their whereabouts and help them with any potentially tricky situations. Your child is most vulnerable to nefarious adults when alone.

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Never change locations without asking the adult in charge

Sometimes kids and their friends may want to venture out to a different, nearby location. Older children may be at the point where they want to hop on a bike and ride off. So that an adult always knows where the kids are, your child and their friends should always tell a supervising adult (you, their friend's parent, for example) where they're going next.

Make it even easier for all the parents involved and start a group chat where you can check in with the other parents and share updates.

mom talking to two young kids outside iStock

Know that tricky people will try to make you break your safety rules

Every parent has their own set of safety rules they’ve communicated to their child. A trustworthy adult will never encourage your child to break those rules.

For example, if you’ve told your child they’re not allowed to leave the park, and someone approaches them saying something like, “Can you come with me to help me find my dog? Don’t worry about your parents; they’ll be so proud you helped me,” your child should know that this person might be “tricky,” and that they should delicately decline, exit the situation and inform their supervising adult.

Keep body safety rules top of mind

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Make sure your child is intimately familiar with their body safety rules. These are guidelines for how your child should be treated, touched, or not touched. Obviously, private parts are not to be shown or touched and no one should be showing their private parts to your child. You should also add no one should invade their personal space or touch them in a way that hurts or makes them feel uncomfortable or scared.

Never keep secrets

Adults shouldn’t share secrets with children. If it’s a temporary secret that leads to a short-term reveal, like a surprise birthday party they’re planning for someone, that’s fine. But a secret meant never to be revealed may be something nefarious that the child’s parents should hear about.

With that in mind, children should know that they can always be open and honest with their parents without the threat of punishment or guilt. Honesty is always encouraged, no matter what.

mom talking to young son iStock

Make it known that not everyone knows your body safety rules

Sometimes, if a trusted adult breaks one of your child’s body safety rules, your child may not want to tell you about it, out of fear that doing so will get this person in trouble. Be sure to delicately communicate to your children that they must tell you if anyone, even a family friend or family member, broke a body safety rule.

You can alleviate your child’s guilt by explaining that not everyone knows their specific body safety rules. Tell them that you will teach this adult about your child's rules so it doesn't happen again. But, make no mistake: any adult of sound mind knows if they are violating a child’s body safety rules.

If you are uncomfortable at all, get help from a trusted adult

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Your child should never endure an uncomfortable situation just to give someone the benefit of the doubt. They should know that the moment they feel uneasy with an adult, they ought to tell their parent or a supervising adult who can help them navigate the situation.

Establish a family code word

A code word that only members of your family know is a great way for you and your kids to discreetly communicate with each other in tricky situations. This can help your family exit uncomfortable interactions without explicitly speaking with each other about it. Just say the code word and your family knows that it's time to leave or find a quiet place to regroup.

mom talking to young daughter iStock

If it feels icky, it’s worth telling an adult

Children seldom want to make people feel upset. If an adult puts them in an uncomfortable situation, they may be tempted to keep it to themselves, out of fear of getting that adult in trouble.

Your child should know that if they experience anything that feels icky or just off, they should always check with a parent to see if they were unknowingly put in a nefarious situation.

The safest adult stranger is a woman with children

If there is a situation where your child must enlist the help of an adult stranger, they should know that the safest kind of adult they can approach is a woman who has children with her. Women with children are far less likely to be dangerous and far more likely to help your child.

family talking at a kitchen table iStock

Trusted adults will always respect and believe you

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A truly trustworthy adult will never do things like intentionally breaking your child’s body safety rules or asking them to keep an inappropriate secret. They will also always believe your child and help them get the assistance they need in any circumstance. If someone your family considers to be a trusted adult begins to act otherwise, it’s likely time to rethink their status as trustworthy.

Spring and summer are wonderful seasons for kids, but parents need to make sure they’ve done all they can to ensure their child’s safety. These checklist items are a great place to start, but be sure to add in anything else you think may help your child stay safe this season.

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