Sunday, December 28, 2008
Sexual abuse. It’s probably one of the last subjects we want to discuss with our children—or even think about ourselves—but experts say that it’s essential to teach our children that certain parts of their body are private. Unfortunately, most children who are being sexually abused fail to tell someone, perhaps because their abuser says it’s a secret, warns that someone will suffer if they tell, or convinces the child that he or she is at fault. So, how do we talk about abuse with our children without scaring them or giving them the impression that adults are bad?
Jill Starishevsky, an Assistant District Attorney in New York City who has prosecuted hundreds of sex offenders, has written a book to help parents bring up the delicate subject of sexual abuse with their children. My Body Belongs to Me combines simple, rhyming words with lovely drawings to help children understand, “This is my body, and it belongs just to me.” The book also instructs kids to tell someone when they’re touched inappropriately and reassures them that “they did nothing wrong” when abuse occurs.
In approaching the subject of sexual abuse with our children, the author suggests:
• Use this book as a tool to start a conversation and continue to address the subject periodically so kids remember the message.
• Teach children the proper terms for parts of the body so they feel comfortable talking about them.
• Ask your child “What if?” questions such as, “What if someone told you it was a secret?” Help them to get to the answer of telling another adult.
• Teach children that your family does not “do secrets.” If someone encourages them to keep secrets, they should respond by saying that their family tells each other everything.
• Encourage your kids to talk to you whenever they feel scared or uncomfortable. This will help them to know they can always confide in you.
• Let your children know they should trust their feelings. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and they should tell someone.
In addition to these tips, My Body Belongs to Me also includes a letter to parents and resources for more information. The author has an accompanying website at www.MyBodyBelongsToMe.com through which you can order the book. I highly recommend it for all families with children between the ages of 3 and 10.
abuse, book, book review, children, Jill Starishevsky, sexual abuse