Keeping Your Child Safe: Part Two

What To Do

Note: This is a playground, not baby jail 😉

So how can you keep your child safe?  After reading Part One of this series you are probably feeling extremely worried and possibly sick to your stomach! That’s how I always feel when I research or talk about this issue. But take heart, there are some very practical steps you can take to help protect your child from this danger.

First, educate yourself to learn the facts about how a predator acts. Remember, 90% of abusers are well known to the child. This means it is not a stranger with a mask – it is most likely someone within your circle of family or friends. But there are patterns that predators follow that can help you know when it’s time to be suspicious. Here are a few:

  • Forced Teaming – Trying to make you feel like you know them well already and are a team. Statements like “We adults have to help each other,” or “We all want kids to be happy,” etc.*
  • Charm and Niceness – Looking you in the eye, smiling, complimenting you and your child, etc. Remember this person is a con artist, they have become an expert at making people trust them.*
  • Discounting the Word “No” – This is a dangerous sign in anyone.  If you say, “no, thanks, I’m fine” to someone and they don’t listen to your “no” but just keep offering and insisting there is good reason to believe they will not listen to your child if they say “no” to that person also. Respect for personal boundaries is one of the most important parts of our social contract with each other.*
  • Excessive Gift Giving – Giving gifts, money, trips, and/or performing special favors for child. Many people in your child’s life may love them and give them gifts. But when its someone who seems to have no clear reason for this, pay attention.^
  • Excessive Bodily Contact – There are appropriate times and places for affectionate touching. But some predators use this as a way to desensitize the child to their own body boundaries through nonsexual touching like tickling, backrubs or wrestling. Then it may escalate to “accidental” touching of privates and/or walking in on bathroom or dressing time. The eventual goal would be sexual touching as the child slowly looses the idea that their body is their own.^
You can find more helpful information like this at https://childluresprevention.com/ or in the book Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker.

Second, make a determination that you will NEVER allow your child to be alone with someone, no matter how nice they seem, until you have thoroughly screened them yourself or can trust someone else has screened them. If you are dropping your child off at any type of child care it’s always important to ask a few basic questions:

  •  What is your philosophy about discipline here? How do you deal with difficult behavior?
  • What is the screening process for child care workers? Does everyone go through a criminal background check?
  • What is the policy for bathroom use? What is the policy for an adult worker being “one on one” with a child?
  • What are your “child safety” practices? Do workers get trained in recognizing and preventing abuse?

Yes, being the irritating parent who asks all these questions while it seems everyone else drops their child off with no cares in the world is not the funnest job. But you may be the person who pushes for a change that saves a child from abuse – your child or another innocent victim.

Finding a babysitter you trust in your home will also need screening, see this excellent book for tips:

Third, begin discussing safety issues and body boundaries with your child at the youngest age possible.  Ask them to name who in their lives is “safe” and part of your trusted circle, and who is not.  It’s hard for children to understand the difference between a waittress at a restaurant (I know her name, so she’s a friend) and a babysitter you have carefully screened. Teach them that there are different levels of closeness and trust – some are people are in our “inner circle” and are “safe” and some are not. 

Help your child to learn boundaries over their own body.  Teach them what are “public” and “private” body areas (a good rule of thumb is “what a bathing suit covers”). Make sure they know that is always ok to say “No” to any physical contact they do not want. Children are often carried here and there, hugged, kissed, snuggled and tickled. Is it any wonder that they are a good victim for someone who wants to violate their body boundaries? There will always be certain things we have to make children do that they don’t want to (brush teeth, go to bed, etc!). But intimate touching – like hugs – should always be optional and up to the child’s decision. This important lesson of consent will protect them for their entire life.  And reassure them that you will always want to hear anything that happened that made them scared or uncomfortable, no matter who was involved.

This book is a great resource for having those conversations with your child:

Finally, decide in your mind that you will always choose to do what’s necessary to keep your child safe whether or not it is rude or inconvenient.  Our society assumes that teachers, priests, pastors, police, doctors, and other professionals are automatically trust-worthy. While many are, there’s no profession that is predator-free. We also have an ingrained desire to be “polite”, and especially women often find it hard to ask questions or point out situations that aren’t quite right as it seems “rude”.  But ask yourself this – which is a bigger problem? To be a bit rude, and make a situation that might have been safe slightly uncomfortable? Or to keep quiet over a suspicion or concern in fear of being rude and find out something truly terrible did happen? Trust the discernment you have, speak out about anything suspicious, ask questions to make sure your child is safe, and say “no” to any situation you don’t feel good about.  There is nothing to regret if you were wrong and a situation WOULD have been safe, but there is everything to regret if you ignored your bad feeling and something bad happened. You know what to do to keep your child, and everyone’s child, safe!

*from the book: Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker

^https://childluresprevention.com/parents/

Keeping Your Child Safe: Part One

Know The Danger

So, is teaching your child to walk a bad idea? 😉

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare – suddenly their child is kidnapped, snatched away by a total stranger!  I’m sure we have all imagined this terrible scenario.  Most parents try to prevent it by teaching their child some protective phrase like “Stranger – Danger” at a young age to help prevent such a thing.  But is that helpful?  Will it save your child?

Before we decide what’s the best way to keep our children safe, let’s first ask – What is the actual danger most likely to harm them?  I studied this issue for an organization I was working for as we developed our Child Safety Policy.  At the same, this scary video became popular on YouTube:

This video can be found on YouTube

It shows a man doing an experiment, with the permission of the children’s parents, to see if he can lure the children away with a puppy.  It is disturbing how quickly it works.  At the end of the video he says “Over 700 children are abducted a day.”  While I appreciate the issue the video is trying to address, I found out that this scary statistic doesn’t really get to the facts.  It’s unclear where that number was from, but it is not an accurate representation of the official statistics on missing children.  In fact, it seems this video is more about playing to a parent’s worst fear instead of helping them actually protect their child.

The most important thing to know about kidnapping is that a stranger snatching your child off the street is extremely unlikely.  In 2015 86% of missing children in America were “runaways.”  This means mostly teenagers who left home of their own choice.  10% were family abductions, usually a custody battle.  2% were lost rather than taken.  And the numbers go down from there.  Of course we MUST protect our children from danger, but there is a much more common danger that we rarely discuss.

See this website for more details on kidnapping:  http://www.missingkids.com/KeyFacts

1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys are sexually abused while under the age of 18*.  Take a minute and think about how horrible that is!  This is a very real, very likely danger to your child.  Even more concerning, 90% of abusers are well known to the child.*  This is not a stranger, this is someone in your close circle of acquaintances.  There is a very helpful book I highly recommend for parents called “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin de Becker.  It covers how to choose who is safe for your child at a very young age, all the way up to how to help your teenagers protect themselves.   

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon

So how do we protect our children from this horribly likely danger of sexual abuse? The first step is to realize – This does happen, and only you (the parent) can prevent it. You are going to have to stop trusting just anyone to watch your child, especially in situations of privacy or physical intimacy. A friend asked me recently “Do you think I’m being silly?  I went to a church group and I asked the girls in the child care to call me if my son needs a diaper change.  I just don’t know them very well.” 

“You are NOT silly,” I said, “You are being wise.”

I recommended for her to ask the leader of the group how the child care workers are screened and trained for their jobs.  If there is no screening in place, the workers may be perfectly nice people, or they may be actual child predators who are using the trusting environment of a church group to get access to children. Ask yourself: What situations right now do you drop your child off, and why do you trust that the people watching them are safe?

A former prosecutor of child predators named Boz Tchividjian has founded a special organization called GRACE to help churches and faith organizations understand how important it is to screen all child care workers and have safety protocols in place.  Here’s a chilling quote from a convicted child predator that motivates his concern:

“I consider church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians.  They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people.  I think they want to believe in people.  Because of that, you can easily convince them, with or without convincing words.”

If you work with a church or other faith group you will want to read more on Boz’s informative blog here:  http://religionnews.com/2014/04/26/sex-offenders/

Although most abusers are men, there are some women who also commit this terrible act.  One of the most disturbing things I learned is that most predators have a warped idea that they are doing nothing wrong.  They were most likely abused themselves and have come to believe that sexual touching with children is actually a way of communicating love.  You will never be able to tell who is a predator by just looking at them, they look like a normal person rather than the monster we imagine.

To better understand the mind of a predator, watch the movie Spotlight, or the documentary Leaving Neverland.

Here are a few more statistics to convince us of the danger:

90% of abusers are well known the child and/or their family.*


A study conducted by Dr. Gene Abel revealed that the average convicted male abuser who molests girls averaged 52 victims, while those targeting boys averaged 150 victims.+ Only about 3% of the crimes had been prosecuted.  When asked if they had been suspected of abuse in those other times but not prosecuted 100% said yes.

12% of abuse of children under age 6 is by women.^

 23% of all sex offenders were under the age of 18.^

81% of the time, abuse occurs in a “one on one” situation^

In the end, there is a minuscule chance that your child will be kidnapped but there is  HUGE risk that your child will be sexually abused.  So it’s only logical to put your time and effort into preventing the harm that it VERY likely to happen, rather than the one that is unlikely.  Some researchers consider that child abuse is like a cancer or virus rapidly moving through our society, unchecked because of lack of knowledge about how to prevent and stop the disease.  In Part Two I will discuss practical steps every parent can take to prevent this tragedy.

Be the one who who protects your children and all the little ones around you starting today!

*https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/childsexualabuse.html

+https://www.churchmutual.com/169/Sexual-Abuse-Prevention

^https://childluresprevention.com/resources/molester-profile/


Sensory Stuff

Spinning but never dizzy!

Top five “sensory” products that were actually worth the money:

How often do you search online for something to help your kid with their sensory needs – whether to stimulate or soothe – and then wonder…..ugh will that be worth the money?  I have definitely spent money on many things that turned out to never be used again.  (Maybe I should also do a list of worst and most useless products?)  But these 5 products, listed from good to amazing, have in our home been definitely worth it.

Important disclaimer:  The Amazon links below are part of the Amazon Associates program, so if you click on one and buy it I will make a small profit (no extra cost to you).  We are talking small as in, 3 percent or so….just enough for me to get a $5 gift card from Amazon and then buy more stuff there 😉 It’s possible I have an unhealthy relationship with Prime lol.

5. Body Sock:

My son has really enjoyed this.  It’s hard for me to tell how much it “works” for sensory soothing or meeting that need for pressure as he uses inconsistently.  Some days he flat out refuses it, other days he wants to wear it constantly to hide in while he reads books, and other times he uses it as kind of resistance work out (Push, pull, flail wildly!) 😀  For the frequency of use, and joy it seems to bring him, it has been worth it.

Here’s the one we use. Click on the image to buy it on Amazon.

4. Super soft blanket:

A super soft blanket has saved us from a meltdown turning violent too many times for me to count.  If only it worked every time…..  But anyway, while my son likes most blankets, and when he wants deep pressure ALL the blankets in the house, super soft blankets are his favorite.  I tried to buy one for my bed, but thats the one he most frequently steals and wraps himself in while watching TV.  Maybe its to feel near me….or maybe just because it annoys me so much that he takes it out of my room and gets crumbs all over it?  Let’s face it, he does like to annoy me 😉 We got ours at Costco.

3. Chewable:

Is your kid like mine – most of their T shirts with little chew marks showing evidence of how delicious the collar was? 

We tried many different chewables….most memorably I spent DAYS making a cloth covered bracelet with a velcro fastener that I thought would be the BEST EVER and he refused to chew on or wear it (sigh).  But eventually through much trial and error we found one product he will actually use.  These little P and Q letters seem to be the perfect mix of soft but sturdy.  Some chewables he chewed holes in almost immediately.  Others didn’t give him “chewing satisfaction” because he couldn’t get a good bite.  But these have survived for months and are still used.  I wish they came with a way to wear or connect them better.  I have tied them with string onto essentially a name tag holder and that works pretty well.  

Click here for an Amazon link to these Chew Tubes

2. Super spinner swing:

For kids with vestibular sensory issues this will either be the best or worst thing ever.  My son is one of those unusual kids who actually does not like regular “back and forth” swinging very much.  But he is obsessed with spinning and seems unable to get physically dizzy.  So this swing specifically designed for spinning has been a dream come true!  If I’m totally honest I get a slight headache watching him spin so fast…but he is very happy!  I hung it from a strong tree branch with a doubled up nylon rope and a carabiner.  It comes with it’s own stiff hanging ropes and two carabiners that can clip into a swing set if you have one.  But I purposefully clip it into one spot to allow for the insanely fast spinning that brings my kid the most joy.   Honestly, I get a headache when I watch how fast he spins, but it gives him SO much joy!

The Super Spinner on Amazon.com

1. Therapy swing: 

Or as my son calls it, his “room hammock”.  My son had an outdoor spinning swing for a year and absolutely loved it (see above) but because we lived in a rental I never could get him the type of swing you have to install indoors with a heavy duty bolt.  When the day finally came I wondered….will this just be money I spend on something he never uses?  

I’m happy to tell you we have the opposite problem!  He adores the “hammock” and it has been wonderful as a place for him to go calm down in.  He actually chooses to climb in there some days just for the calming sensation.  True, he loves it so much that I can’t leave it in his room at night because he will then fall asleep in it and fall out a few hours later….but for a day time experience it has been amazing!

Most amazing to me, it has been a big help in dealing with his aggressive episodes. In a future post I hope to talk more about this…if you’re a parent who’s so sad to see the painful moment your normally sweet child becomes suddenly and frighteningly aggresive please know you are not alone. And having a designated calm, safe, soft place (whether a hammock, tent, blanket, or something else creative) can be a very vital part of the process of dealing with these episodes.

The therapy swing we use 🙂

So there are my five fab faves! What other tools have you found that help your child (or yourself) to meet those sensory needs? I’m also curious about any products people have created themselves. I have made a few things like lotion bars and “calm balm” that I offer on my Etsy store. They aren’t in any way guaranteed to work or “treat” sensory struggles, but just having them as something I can offer to my son has been comforting for me at least! What’s your favorite sensory item?