As we realise more and more that sexual abuse is happening everywhere, we also learn that there are specific things we can teach our children in order to protect them from being abused. Many of these factors, though, are aimed at combating abuse itself, rather than changing the structure of what we teach our children. That is, we teach our children things that help them recognise abuse when it is happening, and hopefully rebuff an abusive advance, but we don' t teach them things that will enable them to reject the structures of adult authority that enable abuse to continue. While we omit this factor in our teaching, we are expecting our children to resist the power of adults in one situation, while not giving them any encouragement to do so in others. It's not enough to teach our children to resist abuse, if we don't also empower them. For instruction on the basics of how and when to teach your child about what abuse is, ask your local school, who should be teaching a child protection course. For further details, keep reading.
We teach our children a number of things, often almost unconsciously, that perpetuate the structures within which abuse functions. We teach them that:
In other words, it's no good teaching children to recognise abusive behaviour, if we don' t also equip them to believe they have the right to tell the abusive person not to do it. And yes, it means drawing a fine line between approving intelligent censure and encouraging rebellion. I believe the most important distinction is teaching children to rebuke politely. However, it can still create problems, especially with teachers who don't understand what the child has been taught about relating to adults. The best solution to this problem is to speak to each teacher and let them know what your child has been taught, and why. The same applies to explaining to family members why you don't insist on the child kissing them. Most problems can be solved with adequate communication between parents and other adults, although there will always be some who can't or won't understand. Naturally, there will still be times when we find ourselves repeating the negative messages we grew up with, but children do distinguish between momentary lapses and an established pattern.
Lastly, perhaps the single most important thing you can do to protect your children is to demonstrate to them that you love them unconditionally. If they know they are loved, and are without any fear of that love ceasing or being withdrawn under any circumstances, they are far less likely to be vulnerable to a paedophile's grooming tactics, and far less likely to be chosen as a paedophile's target.
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