Tag Archives: kids

How to prepare before talking to your kids about sexual assault

It is important as a parent that you open the doors of communication about sexual assault and what exactly that means with your children. Starting the conversation early with them will help prepare them in case they are ever faced with an uncomfortable situation they aren’t sure of, and it will also help them to feel safe speaking to you about it.

In my past 10 years as a sexual assault counselor, I have coached many parents on having this extremely sensitive conversation. It is hard for both parties and there are a few things every parent should follow:

1.)Plan a time to sit down and talk as soon as possible. Don’t wait until your child hits puberty. They need to know what is right and what is wrong and what they can do to feel safe. 

2.)Get your mental game in order. Before you even think about having this conversation think about the words: sexual assault. Say them. How does that make you feel? You want to make sure you are calm and collected when speaking with your child so you don’t make them more uncomfortable. 

3.)Define sexual assault. Make sure you know exactly what sexual assault, rape, catcall, stalking, etc. means so you can explain it properly to your child. You might not want to think about it but it is important that you do. You are the leader of the family and you need to get comfortable before you approach your children. 

4.)Know your resources and develop a protocol. Think about what you will do if your child discloses that he/she/they has been assaulted. Contact child protective services, visit a hospital or doctor for a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit, more commonly known as a “rape kit,” to preserve evidence. In many counties the survivor has the option to press charges and they don’t have to until they are ready. Do your research. 

5.) Know the rights of an assault survivor. Many states have survivors advocates. You can also contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. Take some time to do an internet search, write out your resources and your plan so you are more prepared for the worst. 

This is an extremely difficult topic to approach with your child, but also extremely important. They need the correct information and the best place for them to get that is you. They need to know they have someone on their side who will fight for them if something happens. They need to know they have a safe place to turn. 

Why don’t kids talk to us about sexual assault

Sexual assault is a very real thing, and unfortunately, sometimes our children fall victim to it. So why if they were hurt, would they not come forward and talk to us—especially since we are their parent. We love them and want to protect them, and it can be hard to understand why they would keep something like this a secret. 

Similar to the reasons why our teens don’t open up to us, there are some obstacles to sharing this super sensitive and scary information. Not only is it uncomfortable to talk about but our kids fear they will get in trouble if they give all the details. Maybe it happened at a party they weren’t supposed to be at, or out with friends they weren’t supposed to be out with. They may have gotten drunk or did drugs and they fear consequences. They don’t want to be blamed for being a victim and they surely don’t want to get in trouble for being or doing things they know are wrong. 

They also want to protect us. Our kids, believe it or not, love us similarly to the way we love them. They don’t want to hurt us and they don’t want to see us get upset. They want to protect us from distress. They know how upset their parents will be when they hear their child has been treated this way. Us parents don’t know how to deal with this kind of thing. We start to feel like we are to blame, we might have intense feelings of wanting to “kill” the perpetrator, we want to be reactive to the situation. There is no protocol to deal with this kind of horrible experience. Parents want to protect their children forever and always, and our kids don’t want us to feel like we aren’t doing that. 

The best thing we can do is start the conversation with our children. Open the doors to communication so they feel that no matter what they can come to us. Be sensitive with them. Be calm. Let them know that if they are ever sexually assaulted they need to tell someone. 

Check back tomorrow for our post on preparing to talk to your children about sexual assault, and opening those lines of communication.

‘I don’t want my kid to feel uncomfortable’ is more damaging

When doing therapy with teens, I often hear from parents that they don’t want their “kid to feel uncomfortable.” They do want their teen to learn how to relax, to be less anxious, to cope with their feelings. But, they don’t want uncomfortable topics to come up. They shy away because they think they are protecting their child.

Parents often ask why I would approach uncomfortable topics in therapy. The truth is we don’t want to discourage these topics from being talked about. When we avoid these things, we are sending the message to our kids that they can’t come to us to express themselves. It makes them want to protect us, adults, since we are the ones uncomfortable talking about these things. 

Our teens need to know that they have a place to come and talk and share their experiences, their fears, their worries. They don’t need to learn the courage to talk about these subjects. They need to have the courage to tackle them. 

Uncomfortable things happen to everyone. We all think things, worry about things and are faced with things that are confusing, stressful, and awkward to share. Our teens especially are faced with these situations because they are in an awkward growth period of their lives. With a lot going on in friendships, relationships, and themselves. They need to feel safe to approach these topics so they can come up with healthy solutions to tackle them. By discouraging the discussion of things because they are “uncomfortable” we are forcing our children to go elsewhere for solutions or to keep it all trapped inside. 

How do you approach things that are “uncomfortable” with your teen?

What is the hurry? It is ok to let your kids be bored over the summer

Summer is here. The kids are out of school. The other parents are talking about the programs they have their kids signed up for, the reading lists they are going to follow, and all the ways they are going to add structure back into their kids lives. It might feel like the pressure is on as a parent, but what is the hurry? 

Your kids will only be kids for so long. Soon enough they will have pressure-filled summers with little or no break. They will feel the stress of trying to be successful in life. They will feel overworked, overstimulated, overbooked…eventually. We don’t have to make them feel this pressure as little kids. Instead, let them be little.

Let them be bored. 

Being bored for a kid is a time to let their imagination grow. It is a time to relax. It gives kids time to be kids. They can climb the tree in the backyard, or build a fort in the living room. They can stay up late to watch a movie (which to them will seem super fun, when to us it feels necessary). Boredom teaches our kids how to entertain themselves. If they always have structure, always have a place to be, then they won’t know what to do with that “off” time. 

It gives you time to have more family experiences. You can randomly decide to check out the farm down the street, or a playground further away because you will have the time to do these things. You can decide to spend the day having a water balloon war, or read a book in the backyard. You can go on a picnic. 

Remember the days when our parents could say “go outside and don’t come back until dinner.” We might not be able to do exactly that, but we can teach our kids to fend for themselves. To come up with their own ideas. Downtime can help children to learn who they are and what they really love to do. When they have the choice to do whatever they want for a day—what will they choose? 

It also takes the pressure off you. You don’t need to plan the whole day, or week or month. You can take a breather. School time is structured and full of activities and obligations, summer doesn’t have to be. Summer can be free time. Teach your kids to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy being a kid. 

Tantrum Tips: Maintaining healthy boundaries and trust for happier kids and parents

The other day I was at the supermarket and I saw a mom who was having a hard time cajoling her five-year-old son to leave. She said, “we can get a toy next time.” Her son, unamused, continued to cry and wouldn’t leave. What I saw this mom do is something I also did early on in my parenting career. I said “next time” and then the next time I also said “next time.” By doing that I had set the stage for my kids to not trust what I was saying. They stopped believing me. 

As parents, we want to end the tantrums as swiftly and smoothly as possible, but we have to be careful of what we are doing and saying and what these things are teaching our children. Rather than trying to talk a child down by using special treats or privileges as a means of persuasion, and thus rewarding them for bad behavior, we need to take a different approach. After all, tantrums are a normal part of being a child. It is their way of expressing their emotions, and there are things we can do to help them process.

Maintaining boundaries and trust

Here are some things that can help to maintain healthy boundaries and trust between you and your child during tantrum moments:

1.)Set expectations: Before you go into the store calmly explain to your child that you will be picking up a few things for dinner and that will be all. That way they are not going into the store expecting to leave with a treat.

2.)Speak calmly: Look at your child and talk to them as calmly as you can (I know this can be very hard when you are frustrated). Explain to them that you understand they are upset, but this is not the way to get what they want. Offer to take a moment to sit down with them and calm down.

3.)Avoid rewards: Rewarding your child for leaving the store, or doing tasks they should be doing anyway is only encouraging more tantrums. It seems like an easy fix but they realize if they act this way they might eventually get what they want. Let them know this is not acceptable. Set a healthy boundary.

4.)Keep your word: Don’t promise things you can’t produce. You need to keep trust with your child in order to maintain a healthy relationship. If you have no intention of getting them a toy next time, then don’t promise it. If you can’t stick to your wills about taking away screen time for a day, then don’t make it a punishment. They will learn to not trust what you say.

5.)Quality time: Kids need quality together time. They don’t need rooms of toys or plate fulls of candy. They need game night, or books before bed. They need time with you to get 100 percent of the attention. Quality over quantity. It only has to be a few minutes a day, but make it meaningful. Chances are if your child has a mutual respect for you, they won’t feel the need for all the tantrums. 

Teaching our kids healthy compassion

The other day I came across a blog post on the popular parenting website Scary Mommy. The post titled “Why I no longer tell my child to be inclusive and kind” is written by a mom who taught her child to always be inclusive especially to the child that was disruptive, had problems at home and was the child no one else wanted to include. The mother instructed the child to be “compassionate” because you don’t know what other people might be going through. In the end, the mother got a call from the school counselor who informed her that same child that her daughter was trying to have compassion for was now stalking her. The mother, as any mother would be, was upset by this news and decided to no longer tell her child to be all-inclusive. 

As a counselor, this post stopped me in my tracks. It raised some good questions and presented a topic I feel needs to be discussed. Rather than instructing our children to stay away or avoid compassion and empathy for others because of fear that the person might be a danger, or might not be a good person to associate with, we need to practice healthy compassion. 

Healthy Compassion

There is a difference between practicing discernment and boundaries with compassion. Being kind and having compassion for another does not mean letting that person do whatever they want. It does not mean condoning the bad or uncomfortable behavior. There is what we call blind compassion, which establishes no boundaries, and healthy compassion with boundaries. It is important that we teach our children to have an open mind about others and practice compassion because as the mom wrote: “we don’t know what other people are going through.” However, we need to make sure our children learn how to establish healthy boundaries with others. 

Being kind to others does not give them a free pass to walk all over us, or to treat us in ways that make us feel wrong or bad in some way. We can be kind but also let that person know that they can’t treat us that way. Teach your children it is ok to say “no,” and walk away or to tell an adult if an uncomfortable situation is present. Teach your children rules go both ways, it is not ok for them to hit or push or for them to be hit or pushed. These are important life lessons for all.