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Sexual abuse can be a very difficult topic to discuss with others. This is especially true when it comes to talking about sexual abuse with your children.
Though parents are frequently confronted by messages about the dangers of sexual abuse and molestation, they receive little advice about how to bring up this sensitive subject with their kids. This post will address how to talk about sexual abuse with your children.
When you talk to your children about sexuality and sexual abuse, you should use age-appropriate terms for body parts and other concepts.
Ideally, you should teach your children the anatomical terms for their body parts, rather than using nicknames or slang terms. It is important to teach children the proper names of their body parts so that they can ask questions and express concerns about those body parts. Nicknames and slang terms may obscure a child’s legitimate concerns about inappropriate touching. If using anatomical terms makes you uncomfortable, try teaching your child that his or her “private parts” are those body parts that are covered by underwear or a swimsuit.
Frame the conversation around “safety,” rather than “abuse.” Tell your child that you want to have a discussion about safety and their bodies. Explain the difference between safe touching (such as being examined at the doctor’s office) and unsafe touching (inappropriate tickling or fondling). Tell your child that some people may try to touch him or her in a way that is unsafe, or causes feelings of discomfort, sadness, anger, or confusion. Tell your child that if this ever happens, he or she should tell you right away and that he or she will not get in trouble for doing so.
Maintain an open dialogue with your children, and make it clear that they are never to blame for inappropriate touching. Tell your children that it is okay to say “no” to adults in situations where they feel uncomfortable.
If you are concerned that your child may have been sexually abused, you should have a candid conversation with him or her as soon as possible. Take these steps to ensure that your child feels comfortable discussing what may have happened with you:
Discussing sexual abuse with your children can be extremely challenging. However, maintaining an open dialogue about sexual abuse can be critical in preventing abuse from occurring or continuing. If you believe that your child may have been the victim of child sexual abuse, an honest, non-adversarial conversation is the first step in getting your child the help that he or she needs.
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