In honor of National Child Abuse Awareness Month, we’ve partnered to with Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center to bring you this important guest post on ways to catch and prevent child abuse.
We teach our children about “stranger danger” when they are quite young, telling them not to talk to, leave with, or take gifts from strangers. In doing so, we believe we are equipping our children with a defense against those who would seek to harm them. But the reality is, teaching children about “stranger danger” simply isn’t enough. In 2015, there were almost 6,000 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect in our community. And the vast majority of those dangers came—not from a stranger—but from someone those children loved and trusted.
At the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center (DCAC), we serve the most severely abused children in Dallas County. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and we invite you to use this time to talk to your kids about personal safety. We also understand that this can be a tough subject, so here are some tips to make the conversation a little easier:
- Make talking to your child about personal safety an ongoing dialogue rather than a single conversation.
- Be calm and confident in discussing this topic with your child. Your tone should be neutral, educational, and empowering.
- Let your child know that you are always there for him/her and will listen to whatever he/she wants to tell you. It is important that children understand that they have a right to be safe and that you always want to protect them.
- Do not force your child to greet others with a hug or kiss if he/she is uncomfortable doing so. Instead, let your child determine his/her own boundaries—maybe the greeting is a high five, a fist bump, or a wave instead. Teach your child that you respect his/her body, both with your words and actions.
- As soon as you can, teach your child that the parts of the body that a bathing suit covers are private parts and that no one is allowed to touch or look at their private parts. This conversation can easily be addressed at evening bath time or when you are heading to the neighborhood pool. Do not put shame around sexuality or body parts.
- Teach your child to tell you if anyone (including another child, relative, family friend, neighbor, or other trusted adult) makes him/her feel unsafe or uncomfortable or asks him/her to keep a secret. Have your child identify 3 to 5 safe people to talk to if there is a problem.
- When your child comes home from school, invite them to share the best and worst part of his/her day with you. This encourages him/her to share his/her feelings with you, as well as set the stage that you are ready to listen and place value on what is happening in his/her “world.”
- Familiarize yourself with the child protection policies in place for any organization that serves your child (ex: daycare, after school programs, youth sports, dance class, etc.). Look for policies that prohibit situations where an adult can be alone with your child and ask your child if the policies are being followed when you are not there.
- When your child is attending a sleepover, talk to the hosting family about the adults and children that will be present in the home. Will the older teenage brother have friends over? Are there any visiting relatives that will be there? With this information, you are better equipped to decide if your child can attend.
- Make any topic acceptable for conversation. Encouraging your child to talk to you about the “small things,” sends the message that he/she can come to you about the “big things” as well.
- Above all, listen to your child and trust your instincts. If your son or daughter does not want to spend time with a certain individual, ask him/her why and pay attention to his/her concerns. To the extent possible, respect his/her wishes.
- If you suspect a child has been abused, act immediately. Do not confront that person; rather, call Child Protective Services at (800)252-5400 or your local police department.
Indeed, we need to continue to warn our children about strangers. But the conversation can’t end there.
Want to support Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center? The Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center and Park Place Motorcars Dallas present the opportunity to win an all-new Mercedes-Benz GLC300W, Mid-Size SUV! (Suggested MSRP $38,950) Only 1,500 tickets will be sold!
Entry will be closed and a drawing for the winner will be held during Appetite for Advocacy at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. For online purchasers, a numbered ticket stub will be mailed to the address provided on the payment page. Purchase your Raffle Tickets here and support this incredible cause.
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Dianna Smoot is the Director of Community Education for the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. In this role, she oversees the outreach program for community members, parents and child-serving professionals as well as training for those that work these crimes. DCAC depends on the community to help carry out its life-changing mission—through advocating for awareness, serving as a volunteer, or making a donation. For more information visit www.dcac.org/involved or email her at [email protected].