Parents, stay alert.
Ann Thompson, Lincoln Parish Coordinator with the Youth Empowerment Program, said one way parents can prevent bullying and abuse is to talk with their children about these tough topics.
“Talk with your children about it,” Thompson said. “Talking about safety from abuse strengthens our relationships with our children. Speak and listen calmly.”
Thompson said it is important in these conversations that the child or children feel safe and loved.
“Children may shut down if you respond emotionally or negatively,” she said. “It is also important for children to know that it is your job to protect them from abuse. Talking openly breaks down barriers and reduces stigma. Tell your children that if they have questions about someone’s behavior, the best thing they can do is ask you about it.”
One of the best protections, Thompson added is the parent’s relationship with the child.
“Parents need to have age-appropriate, open conversations about bodies, sex and boundaries,” she said. “Talking about personal safety and sex creates a protective bond between parent and child, it increases confidence for both parties, and instills knowledge that makes children and teens a lot less vulnerable. One suggestion is to teach young children the proper names for body parts.”
Another suggestion Thompson had is to come up with “what if” examples to use with children.
“’What if your friend’s older brother asks you to go along with him to the attic?’ ‘What would you do if you saw a friend who keeps being mean to another friend on purpose?’ Having children come up with solutions helps them remember them better and be more empowered,” she said.
If a child knows a friend or peer who is being abused or is being abused himself, Thompson said the abuse needs to be reported.
“This would be a discovery of child sexual abuse,” she said. “The abuse needs to be reported to the police immediately. Thank the child who is telling you about the abuse. This child needs to feel supported and encouraged for taking the risk of doing the right thing. It is our moral responsibly to report this abuse. Let the child know that you are not sure what is going to happen, but that you will figure it out together.
“Working together as a community, we can protect children and keep them safe from abuse. As child sexual abuse ends, we will see generations of happier, healthier children and adults.”
For more information or to schedule a training, contact Thompson at email@example.com. You can also call or text her at (318) 548-1353.
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