And so, it begins…Mother’s Day is this weekend and endless ads remind family members to make it special. From breakfast in bed to handmade cards, or maybe a spa day or quiet house for the afternoon. All of these are great ideas, but they’re not the best gift – the one that I want most.
This and every Mother’s Day, what I want above all else is for my children to be kept safe. I’m a Mama Bear that will do anything to defend my children’s right to a happy and healthy childhood.
I know and understand that there are things in life beyond my control, but I am also armed with the information that 95% of child sexual abuse IS preventable through education and awareness. While I cannot guarantee that my children will not count themselves among the 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys who will be sexually abused before age 18, I can work to significantly reduce the chances that first instance of abuse ever occurs – and eliminate the possibility of subsequent offenses.
I can teach my children how to stay safe and get help if they need it. Check out my top 10 Mama Bear tips below to help prevent abuse and protect childhood:
- Identify three grown-up buddies, people you can trust, besides us at home and other members of our family.
- Your body is your own. Stretch your arms out wide and draw a big bubble–this is your space. No one should come in your bubble unless you give the OK.
- I promise that I won’t make you hug a family member because “it’s polite,” because as we just said – your body belongs to you. Fist bumps and handshakes are fine.
- Know the difference between safe and unsafe touches. If something feels scary or makes you uncomfortable or confused then say “I don’t like that!” and get out of the situation. Tell me or one of your grown-up buddies right away.
- I will always believe you if you tell me you feel unsafe. I will not be mad and you are never to blame.
- Remember there is a difference between a safe secret and an unsafe secret – surprise parties or secret handshakes are safe secrets. They make you feel happy and excited. If someone tells you to keep a secret that is scary, worries you, or makes you feel not quite right – tell me or your grown-up buddy immediately.
- I know how loud you can be, so use your voice to say “STOP! That’s not safe!” when you feel afraid.
- Our phones are a great way to stay in touch and connect with friends. But not everyone on our device is who they say they are. Use your phone, games and computer to connect with friends you already know.
- Stay aware of your surroundings. Are adults going to be there? Is there something that makes you uncomfortable? Listen to your guiding voice and leave or call for a ride if you feel unsafe or unsure.
- I can’t protect you from everything (I wish I could!), but you have a voice and the ability make choices that keep you safe. And, if you need help, I am here for you – always. That’s the best gift a mom could ever ask for.
Lauren Book, M.S. Ed, Founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, worked with a multidisciplinary team of educators and developmental psychologists to teach children critical personal safety information in a developmentally and age-appropriate way. The tips above were adapted from the Safer, Smarter Schools curriculum. Lauren lives in South Florida with her husband and twins. To learn more visit www.LaurensKids.org.