As a parent a couple of events occured this week that really got me thinking. My thoughts have been about my parental duties and the role of educators and the education system in the development of my daughters morals and social behaviours.
As background, my daughter is in Kindergarten so often it is hard to think of her as anything but an angel and so pure that no one would ever harm her. However, there are other days where I know she is human and that there are a load of sick people in the world who wouldn’t think twice in harming her. I really try to avoid those thoughts but when they come I turn them into productive ideas of how to keep her safe.
So this week the school was having an assembly on sexual abuse. The school sent out a brief overview of the program, assurances that there would be no nudity or innappropriate language and a slip for parents to sign if they did not want their child to attend the assembly. I briefly thought about not letting her go, but I choose to let her go since I figured it would be a good reinforcement for what my wife and I teach her. I also thought it might provide her some new information that could keep her even safer.
My thoughts on this changed a bit last week in speaking to another parent of a child in the class. Our children are pretty close friends and the do many activities together outside of school. We were at basketball practice and she asked if we were letting our daughter attend the sexual abuse program. I said we were and she stated she was unsure and that she thought her son was too young for something like that. I didn’t disagree, but I did say I thought the school would do a good job. Still this conversation made me rethink the decision. My thoughts kept coming back to the question ‘when is it appropriate to start teaching a child proper social behaviour’?
The answer I kept arriving at based upon my experience as a father of three and education is that teaching a child proper social behaviour starts from the moment they are born. For example, the lite biting of a newborn when they begin breast feeding is natural but when it becomes too much you need to let the baby know it is not necessary. And while it is funny the first time or two that the baby boy pees in your face as you change his diaper it certainly got me upset after that. What we did was make our son aware of our displeasure verbally and through facial expressions. That coupled with being quick with the diaper stopped that action. I also thought about all the direction and education I gave as the children began to crawl and then walk…’don’t touch that’, ‘be careful with the dog when he is eating’, ‘that has a yuk sticker so don’t touch’, be careful on the stairs’ and on and on it went.
So I came back to the same answer that I should let her go to the assembly and make sure we talked about it before and after. Personally, I don’t think a child can be too young to start learning about proper social conduct and molestation is NOT proper! The New York State Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) has some nice information and tips for parents and educators. I found the following quote from the OCFS web site titled “Say No! Protecting Children Against Sexual Abuse Pub. 1154” to be quite informative and hope that it entices you to read some more and put these suggestions into practice.
You can start by teaching your child that his or her body is special and should be protected. Begin as soon as you think your child is old enough to understand, usually at about age three. Start simple and keep it that way. While you should try to use the correct names for body parts, this is not a requirement. Using the correct names will help the child develop a healthy respect for his or her body. But, if you have trouble doing this, use other names. Just start talking!
Do not try to cover everything in one discussion. Talking to your child about sexual abuse and personal safety should be an ongoing process. And, do not make a big thing of these talks. Be casual and informal, and choose a time when the child feels safe and relaxed. For example, talk to the child:
while the child is playing;
during a leisurely walk, or while riding in the car or on a bus;
while fixing a meal together;
while watching TV, or when discussing events in the newspaper;
in connection with a remark made by the child; or
while tucking the child into bed at night.
Child Help USA reports that 3 million cases of child abuse are reported annually in the United States. Education of our children is one of the best ways to help the avoid being one of these case but it also calls for us as parents and teachers to be sensitive to signs of abuse.
The blog by “Blind to Bounds” put it nicely when they said:
MYTH: Good and protective parenting can protect the children from abuse.
FACT: Every parent is a well meaning parent and wants to shelter his/her kid to the maximum But the perpetrators are excellent manipulators and make the parents believe that the kids are safe in their care. The only near ‘sure’ way to protect the child from abuse after he/she has attained reasonable understanding is to empower them with the knowledge about Sexual abuse and that they should not be afraid to speak up if anything happens or was about to happen.
They should be told to realise the difference between the ‘good touch’ and the ‘bad touch’ and should believe in themselves even if they get bad vibes from the closest of relatives or acquaintances.
They should be taught how to remove themselves from the vulnerable situation and to contact parents or whoever they trust the most, as soon as possible
For the parents: They should calmly listen to their children’s complaints and believe in them. The guilt of not being an effective parent often leads them to deny if such a thing to ever happens.
So… there was the second event that weighed heavy upon my mind, but that will have to wait for another day!