Monday, August 12, 2013

I said NO!

This subject is one that I have been thinking about for a long time. 
It isn't an easy subject to talk about and I think that a lot of people are so sickened by it that they push it out of their mind.
Child Molestation.
I know, this is a very heavy subject and I have a lot in my heart about it. This is a long post and not very entertaining, because - it is not an entertaining subject. It is one that makes me sick... literally sick. PLEASE hear me out. Please read to the end and also the attached article. I have been blessed to have avoided this as a child but I know way. to. many people.. personally and closely who weren't as lucky. 
When Sammy was born, it seemed I was being flooded with stories from friends, loved ones, acquaintances, news clips, etc..where small children were being taken advantage of sexually. I was outraged! My heart ached for these children and my fear for Sam and future children was overwhelming. I knew people personally who were taken advantage of and it was really really hard on them. The saddest was when I would hear stories from adults that had never told another soul until then. They had been living with grief from when they were 3 or 4 years old. 
Did you know that 1 in 3 girls and 1 and 4 boys are sexually abused at some level in the United States? Doesn't that make you your heart ache? 
I found myself not trusting anyone. 
I wanted so badly to somehow protect my precious children from this evil. I knew I needed to arm them with knowledge but I had no idea how to talk about such adult things with such innocent children. There was so much that needed to be said, how do you actually get through to such young children?
I didn't want them to live in fear or think the world was full of bad people out to get them... but I did want them to be aware. It is my job as their parent to give them the knowledge and tools....their armor necessary to be safe.
I searched for ways to talk to my kids in a way where again, I wouldn't scare them. Fear gets us no where. I want them to feel confident and in charge. I came across a few books. Some of them would be excellent if they were 8 or older, but WAY too much for a 4 year old. I found some books that were way too vague and beat around the bush too much. I found others that crossed the lines when it comes to our family values. 
A few weeks ago, I was thinking about my kids' Imagine Nation and went to the library after Mike got home to search for some fun books for them. After I had an entire basket full, I went to the cook book section and out of the corner of my eye on a different shelf I saw this book:


I seriously feel like it was an answer to my prayers. This is BY FAR the best book I have EVER read or found for teaching our children on the subject... BY FAR. I would go as far to say that EVERY single school and home should have a copy.

It is a story that a little boy and his mother wrote together after the little boy had a bad experience at a sleep over. There are several things I love about this book. For example, the book begins like this:

"My name is Zack and this is my mom. I had a not so good time at a sleepover party last year. Mom always said, "keep your privates... private!" So what are privates? (It shows a drawing of boys underwear and another drawing of a girls undershirt and underwear...no kids in them, just the clothing.)  "Private parts for boys are the parts of your body that are under your underwear. Private parts for girls are the parts of your body that are under your underwear and undershirt. There are doctor names and lots of other names for your private parts! We are sure you have heard a few of them! You might want to talk about some of those names now"  .......

This is ONE of the many reasons I love this book. As I read this to Sammy, it lead into a very good opportunity to talk about the actual terms for men and women's "private parts." This is hard for me. I know, I know... but it is. I gulped in my mind and faked being completely comfortable using the words. As we talked, his big eyes got bigger a few times, but I was proud of him when he was able to say the actual terms without sounding embarrassed. I know experts say that you shouldn't make up cutesie words like "pee pee" or things like that - but I don't care. That's just what we call it for now.. but now he knows what the actual term is.  ..... I'm going to give a few more examples from the book that I absolutely love - 

"Your body is a wonderful thing! It is important to keep it healthy, safe and clean. It is important to learn about your body. When you are a kid, learning about the world, it's natural to be curious about bodies. Say you are a boy like me, my mom says that it is natural to be a little curious about what girls bodies look like. Or if you are a girl with no brothers you might be curious about what boys look like... But Mom says that once you are not a baby anymore, privates just stay private. Mom says that this is called modesty. Maybe you are a little curious about the differences between girls and boys. You might want to talk about your curiosity now."

Again! Awesome segway into an otherwise awkward conversation. When I asked him if he had any questions, at first he said "no." .. but I knew he was VERY curious and didn't want this opportunity to pass by. It was clear he was totally confused about breasts. He is a boy through and through. So, I said something. He then poured out the questions.. "why do you have those?" ... I explained to him that Heavenly Father is so smart, he made it so when mommies had babies, they would be able to feed them... I asked him if he remembered me nursing Ben and Claire. It was so interesting to hear his response. "Mom, do you just drink a bunch of milk and then he gets it out of your tummy?" ... (I think he was thinking back to our conversation about umbilical cords while I was pregnant) ... I explained to him that my body just naturally MADE milk! He just couldn't get past the idea that I didn't have to drink a bunch of milk before I could feed milk to Ben from my body.. but he honestly thought Ben was drinking from my tummy. So I told him that babies use their mama's breasts to drink like a bottle. His eyes got huge... where do they drink from? ...SO many questions. After our girl questions were over, he had this grateful look in his eye.

The book then goes on to talk about many different things. The author, Kimberly King, Zack's mom suggests reading the book in sections if it is too much in one sitting as it goes over absolutely everything. From good touch to bad and secret touching, lies,bribes and threats versus friendliness and rewards. It gives examples of what the book calls "red flag" people and "green flag" people. All the way to the "what if's" when it is someone very close to them... it gives opportunities to pause and talk about your plan if they find themselves in dangerous, or "red flag" situations. 

There is SO much good to this book I couldn't possibly write it all out without typing out the entire book and I am totally tempted to do it, but that would be wrong I suppose. YOU NEED THIS BOOK. If I had the money I would buy a copy for everyone I knew. 

Sammy had no trouble having me read the entire book in one sitting. I had planned on taking a few nights to read it, but he was so attentive through the entire book. He had a grateful and confident look in his eye. We were able to have a conversation where I was able to tell him that if he had ANY questions about any of this kind of stuff, then I would be happy to talk about it. I told him that I wasn't embarrassed about talking about this stuff with him and that he never needed to feel embarrassed to talk to me. We talked about how these things about our bodies are private and  personal and they shouldn't be broadcasted, but that they aren't bad and he could talk to me or Mike about anything. He has already come to me with other questions and it has been very comfortable. 

I feel like I am doing a commercial for this book or something, but you really  need to own this book and read it to your children. They will be grateful and you will be doing duty to keep them safe and protected.

What have you done to help your children to understand these things? This is a serious topic that NEEDS to be addressed. If you have any good ideas, please please post them. We could all use ideas.

I read an article on CNN's website on this subject - I would HIGHLY recommend reading this.. every word. As I read it, it just made sense. Whether you are a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, neighbor, friend.. EVERYONE should read this. :)  I just read through it trying to capture a few quotes, but really, the entire thing should be read.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/20/living/give-grandma-hug-child/index.html

The article is basically about letting our children know that they are in charge of their bodies. Although many many many loved ones are well meaning in wanting hugs and kisses from these little cuties, it gives them the perception that they need to be physically there for someone to make them feel happy and if you don't, it will hurt their feelings. Interesting hu? But doesn't it totally make sense? It talks about the problem with people in authority tell them need or have to hug and kiss someone.  I will be teaching my children this week that they never have to give a hug or kiss to anyone if they don't feel like it. Again, I will definitely teach them that kindness and respect is a must, but touching is not. I like that the article talks about high fives or handshakes as alternatives - You may read this and think "oh brother, it's just a kiss from a 4 year old!" .... but you do see what the article is saying right? Our kids need to know that they have ownership, and that if their little instincts say not to hug someone, then allow them to follow through. I'm willing to bet that MOST of the time, it's not necessarily instincts, but that they are just not in the mood to hand out hugs or even possibly just wanting to win at a power struggle.... but isn't that what we want? Don't we want them to know that they have the power to tell someone NO? As innocent as these interactions may be, they are learning that what they say matters and that they are in control. It's an excellent training ground. If relatives could read this, maybe instead of feeling offended when this happens, they could be proud that their little family member or friend is learning to keep themselves safe, then give them a high five or pat on the back instead without making the child feel like they have hurt their feelings. - We can't put so much emotion around what they decide to do, children are inherent pleasers... they want people to be happy and so many are taken advantage of because of this.

Again, what are some insights, advice and ideas that you have?

We as parents and loved ones to these children need to be their advocates. In some small way, I hope that the information that I have found is a step in the right direction. This is my way of being that advocate - this is a sick epidemic, seriously, think about it, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 4 boys. That number blows my mind. I don't write all of this to put fear into hearts, I have felt fear for my kids for the past 4 years now and it got me nowhere. Hopefully these resources will cast out the fear and help our kids to feel confident and secure.

2 comments:

britt said...

Amazing!

Anonymous said...

I love this post! Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and this wonderful book!