Abuse Disclosure

In June I discussed some facts about abuse and this month I’d like to share what to do if your child discloses abuse to you.

It is very important for you to understand that you have a legal, moral and ethical responsibility to report the abuse, whether you believe it to be true or not.

Some helpful tips to consider:

• stay calm

• go slowly

• be reassuring

• be supportive

• get only the essential facts

• tell the child what will happen next

• report to a child protection worker (local law enforcement, RCMP, MCFD)

• make notes for later reference

-adapted from p. 68 of Body Smart: Right from the Start (Kerri Isham, 2016)
-photo: creativecommons.org/addictions.com

The facts about abuse

From the June newsletter…

Last month we talked about play date and party rules, and how to debrief with your child. This month we’d like to share some facts about abuse that some parents may not be aware of.

Abuse happens in all types of families within all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. It is not limited to a certain “type” of family. Most parents want the best for their children, but factors like stress and lack of resources sometime compromise a parent’s ability to make good choices about the welfare of their child. Sexual abuse by strangers is rare; 75% – 85% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by a family member.

Most sexual abuse is perpetuated without force or violence. 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. Children with disabilities are even more at risk. 

Finally, children rarely false report abuse. They speak from experience and cannot make up this information unless exposed to it. Treatment from a mental heath professional can minimize the physical emotional and social problems that may occur after an incident. Treatment helps the child to process feelings and fears around the incident.

                                  *adapted from Body Smart: Right from the Start (Kerri Isham, 2016)

Play Dates and Safety

One of the many ways that our children engage with the world is through play dates with other children. Safety begins with some simple rules:
-play with clothes on
-no touching of private parts
-no photos of private parts
-you are allowed privacy when bathing, dressing, using the toilet
-you have permission to say ‘no’
-we don’t keep secrets; if someone tells you to keep a secret tell an adult.

Here are some questions that you can ask your child to engage in a “safety conversation”*
after a play date or party:
-Did you enjoy yourself?
-How did you spend your time?
-What was your favourite part of the play date/party?
-What was the least favourite part?
-Did you feel safe?
-Was there anything else you wanted to share?

This kind of debrief enables your child to share the good things about the play date, and may help them to tell you if something unwanted did happen. 

*adapted from Body Smart: Right from the Start, by Kerri Isham (2016)

My Latest Book!

I’m very excited and proud about my latest book, Body Smart: Right from the Start. It’s my second publication and focuses on abuse prevention in Kindergarten to Grade 3 aged children.

You can buy a copy here.

I’m also very grateful for the continued support of my local Shaw station. Thank you for supporting the work that I do to make our community a safer place for our young people.

Watch the Shaw TV interview.

My First Book…Puberty: Coming to a Body Near You

When parents and caregivers talk openly and honestly about sexuality, children will have the comfort, knowledge and support they need to achieve healthy sexual lives.

Puberty can be a scary and challenging time. As a parent/guardian, you have the unique opportunity to make puberty an exciting right of passage for your child/children.

With fun, meaningful and hands-on activities, our children can learn to be open and confident with these sensitive topics.

This workbook is entertaining, engaging and informative. Be prepared to laugh!

You can order a copy here.

Watch the Shaw TV interview.

Why Start Early?

There are many important reasons to begin teaching your children about sexual health early. It is the foundation for the development of positive attitudes about sexuality. Children are naturally curious and your willingness to discuss age-appropriate material builds trust and open communication. The building blocks of healthy adult sexuality begins in childhood with trusted adults.

Children gain control of their world by naming it. With each new word, the child grows in understanding and power. Learning the correct names and functions of private body parts enables a child to talk and ask questions about them. Accurate, age-appropriate information is vital to helping a child prepare for adolescence and adulthood.

Your open and honest discussions are a way for you to connect with your children and teach them family values, rather than school-yard ones. Starting early has also been proven to increase abuse resistance, reduce anxiety and make children more likely to report abuse, injuries and see a doctor in the future.

An Unexpected Reaction??

18-science-world-downtown

This past weekend, I took my 13 year old daughter to the Science of Sexuality exhibit at Science World. With me being a sexual health educator, we talk about sexuality daily if not several times per day. You would have thought this would have been easy…

As you enter the exhibit there are huge (and I mean huge) pictures of men and women at different stages of development. I believe there were five: a baby, child, teen, adult and a senior. My daughter looked up, down to the left and to the right, anywhere but at those pictures. Then there is a section that has flashing pictures of the spectrum of existing genitalia for both men and women. Again, eyes divert.
Her favourite part was the STI game where you got to learn what STI’s you could get from kissing, oral sex and vaginal/anal sex and the body perception mirror. I really do have to figure out how to make those mini machines. An awesome visual for teens to see.

I asked Taylor what made her uncomfortable and she said the people. I asked if she would rather go with friends? I got a quick, “No”. Not a great location for a class field trip. “No!” Then I asked if she was uncomfortable with being with me and she said “No”. Then she said, “I am uncomfortable with being with other people in here”. Wow. Never even crossed my mind but for a 13 year who thinks everyone is analyzing her every move, she feared someone might think she was a pervert. Who would have known.

We were in there for about an hour and 45 minutes with me taking notes on my i-phone (that might have been embarrassing to, I admit). Yes, there were a few new things for me to learn.

This exhibit ends soon, September 2 and I would highly recommend that you go.

http://www.scienceworld.ca/sexuality

1,2 3 Preschool/Kindergarten Ready

123 Preschool/Kindergarten Ready!

By Kerri Isham and Lesley Stedmon

You’ve bought new shoes and backpacks, sharpened crayons, and added nutritious peanut-free snacks. Is your child ready for preschool/Kindergarten? Almost!

Going to preschool/Kindergarten is the first time in many children’s lives where they begin to assert their independence and navigate their new social world. Let’s make sure they navigate as safely as possible.

Five helpful strategies to keep your child safe:

1. Identify safe adults in your child’s life. Children need trusted adults to be able to ask questions openly without shame. This trust needs to extend beyond their parents/guardians.

2. Reinforce the difference between private and public behaviours/spaces. Behaviours used for self-soothing and anxiety reduction (self-pleasuring) need firm boundaries outside the safety of your home.

3. Start to introduce yes/no feelings. Laying the foundation for intuition recognition lays the groundwork for your child to learn to trust themselves and their own feelings.

4. Use accurate names for all body parts and teach basic reproduction. This is a proven way to increase abuse resistance in children.

5. Emphasize the difference between surprises and secrets. Surprises will always surface whereas secrets will remain underground. There is no need for preschool/Kindergarten aged child to be requested to keep a secret.

Healthy sexuality begins at birth and is a lifelong process. We are all sexual beings. Addressing physical, emotional, cognitive and sexual growth from a balanced perspective will support each child to maximize positive health outcomes. Adults, teachers and school counsellors have a responsibility to help children understand and accept their developing sexuality.

As parents, it is never too early to start these important conversations. Books such as Belly Buttons are Navels by Mark Schoen and What’s the Big Secret by Marc Brown are both gentle introductions to making healthy sexuality a part of everyday conversations.

Education is not permission. Knowledge is power.

For more information please contact

Kerri Isham at www.powerupworkshops.ca
Lesley Stedmon at http://www.lesleystedmon.com/

Song for Girls to Increase Abuse resistance…

THE BODY SONG

SAFETEEN IS PROUD TO PRESENT: Both playful and strong, the body song CD teaches girls how to “name without shame” all parts of their bodies. the body song also provides an ongoing opportunity for parents to dialogue with their children about body awareness and discovery. Most of all, it encourages girls to feel pride about their bodies, ownership of their bodies and healthy boundaries regarding their bodies. As the last line in the song states:“This is MY body and NO ONE has the right to touch it without MY permission!”To Purchase CD: Call: 604.255.5147 / Email: safeteen@telus.netwww.safeteen.ca