Have you ever heard these requests from your kids? “When can I start taking swimming lessons?” “I want to learn to play the guitar!” “Can I join the baseball team?” Sometimes it feels like there is no end to a child’s ambition—or their requests to start new things. As a parent, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of sexual abuse when your child starts a new activity, especially an activity where they’ll be spending lots of time away from you with other kids and adults. Here are some ideas to keep in mind.
Be proactive when it comes to protecting your kid.
As your child joins a sports team or another extracurricular activity, take a minute to have a conversation with the coach or person in charge. Explain what you do to keep your child safe and talk about what they can do to support you in your efforts. You might say something like this:
“Thank you so much for making softball a positive experience for all these kids. I really appreciate it, and my daughter is so excited to play. I just wanted to let you know that keeping my daughter safe is important to me, and there are some things you can do to help me reinforce principles I’m teaching her at home. Please respect any boundaries that she sets, and if you ever need to communicate any information to her, please do it through me. Again, thank you for what you’re doing. We’re really excited about the upcoming season.”
Setting boundaries and expectations at the beginning is easier than setting them once a problematic situation arises.
Even if you weren’t proactive at the beginning, it’s not too late.
Don’t despair if you feel like you weren’t as proactive at the beginning of an activity as you wanted to be. If someone does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to that person. Here at Defend Innocence, we often talk about confronting with kindness. This involves having a direct conversation where you kindly but firmly explain why you’re concerned about something. You clearly discuss what you’d like to change. Confronting with kindness helps you be calm and respectful as you communicate about sensitive topics.
You can use these principles all the time.
Any time your child starts something new, have a conversation with the people involved. Whether your child is joining a sports team, taking violin lessons, going to play at a friend’s house for the first time, or just starting a new school year, talk to the adults who will be interacting with your child and make sure you’re all on the same page. It can be tempting to hope and assume that everything will be fine, but you can do a lot to make sure that things go well from the beginning.
It might sound awkward to have a conversation with a baseball coach or a grade school teacher, but the reality is that these people should be just as concerned about your child’s safety as you are. You’ll probably find out that they appreciate the conversation and are totally supportive of what you do to protect your child.
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