Guest post by Jeff Griesemer, President and CEO of Child Rescue Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse, abduction, and victimization. www.ChildRescueNetwork.org
I am often asked, “What is the top thing that parents can do to protect their children from sexual predators?” While there are lots of ways parents can empower their children, the absolute essential key is communication.
Communication. Sounds relatively easy, huh? It’s not. A misunderstood comment from a co-worker can quickly become an issue that causes enough turmoil that someone loses their job. A failure to use my turn signal can certainly impact my relationship with the guy in the car behind me. And not properly communicating with your child can, without a doubt, open the door for a sexual predator.
The earlier you start trying to communicate, the better. Here are some tips:
- The best communication is a two-way street and listening needs to be a priority.
- Encourage talking! Ask questions that go beyond a simple yes or no and try to extend the conversations by asking your child to expand on or to clarify his or her thoughts.
- Remember that you must be patient.
- Most children have a limited vocabulary and can take longer to express themselves. Try to avoid cutting them off and correcting them as you listen. Kids need to know they are important and you are interested in what they have to say.
- You’ll find that repeating or reflecting what your child is saying is a great way to show them you care and are listening.
- Avoid being negative with your words.
Having actual conversations with your child about their day can show how important he is to you and it can help you spot potential issues. Is your child active in organized sports? Try asking questions like:
- What is your coach like?
- Do you like him or her?
- Are you making friends with the other kids?
- What did he like best? What did he like least?
These types of inquiries give you some insight into how your child is feeling and if there might be cause for concern.
Open communication with your child can do wonders for his self-esteem as well. Correcting behavior should be constructive, helpful and without criticism. Show your children how to be good. Kids want to please, and when you praise them this helps build confidence and encourages them to continue to express themselves.
These simple phrases can have such a positive effect on your child:
- I’m so proud of you
- Nice work
- You’re so smart
- I knew you could do it
- Thank you
The great news is that creating open lines of communication with your child can help prevent sexual predators from getting too close to your child and if they do, can allow you to recognize a possible threat and take action before it is too late.
What message are you giving your child?