Think back to the last time you got together with your extended family. Whether it was a family reunion, a holiday get-together, or a family dinner, it was probably chaotic—in the best of ways, hopefully.

It’s also an uncomfortable truth that most children are sexually abused by a family member or friend. While no one wants to think that someone they know and love would be capable of something like that, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Here are 5 tips to make sure that your family events are fun and safe:


Set expectations beforehand.

Talk to your child about what’s going to happen and how you want them to behave. The behavior for a pool party will be completely different than for a more formal dinner. It will help make the day go a lot more smoothly if you let everyone know what to expect, including how you’ll handle hugs.

Talk about privacy.

It’s important for children to understand giving privacy to others as well as knowing when to ask for it for themselves. Depending on their age you may want to talk about changing with others in the room, going to the bathroom alone, or bathing alone.

Allow them to tattle.

Think about how often your child comes up to you, wanting to tell you something, and you brush them off without listening. You tell them to go play, or tell them not to tattle, or not to complain. Next time take a minute to listen. They may be trying to tell you something important.

Tackle the sleepover question.

If you’re staying over with family, or if you have family staying over with you, it’s a good thing to decide on some rules. You’ll want to think through sleeping arrangements, the comfort level of everyone involved, and address how you want to learn about any problems your child might have.

Embrace your circle of trust.

Let your family know that you’re trying to protect your child. Explain your rules and your reasons. Then ask them to be part of the team to help make sure your child has the safest childhood possible.

Family events can be stressful, chaotic, and full of memory-building moments. Make the best of the next one you attend by planning ahead. You’ll be so glad that you did.

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