Sunday, March 19, 2017

Protecting your children

I've had a longstanding goal to write a short letter once a month, but rarely get around to it. So today, I'm writing! That's the good news. The bad news is that I have a sad topic to discuss: protecting your kids from molestation. Unfortunately, it's far more common that you  might think. I think women are aware of this, but men are generally clueless. I had to deal with three instances of it while I was bishop. Very sad. Two of the three were eight or nine year old girls who were molested by eleven year old girls who were neighbors. The other case was three kids from the same family, both sexes, who were molested by their dad (he's in jail for the rest of his life). So, without getting into the details, what can you do to protect your kids, and what are the warning signs?

First of all, recall back to your elementary school days how much separation there was between kids in different grades. At least when I was growing up, even one grade was a huge social barrier. So if a neighbor kid wants to hang out with your kid who is several years younger, warning bells should be going off like crazy.

As far as protecting your kids from family members, first remember that most kids are molested by someone they know, and most often, it is a family member. It could be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, and even a sibling. I know all of your families, and I think we're all okay (I include myself), but just keep an eye out for unusual behavior, again, usually in the form of crossing age barriers and unusual interest. Secondly, I recommend sitting down with kids when they are old enough (10-13?) and talk to them about this topic, and explain that if they are molested, they can come to you, and that you will send the molester to jail, where they will stay for several years, and that's a good thing.

Also be very wary of sleepovers. At any age. I speak from personal experience. My first sleepover was at age 10 or so, and as soon as the adults left, someone suggested that we take off all our clothes and run around. My dad came back, I saw him coming, and we all jumped in our sleeping bags. I felt embarrassed,  but I don't think he caught us. Maybe he did. In any event, it was a blessing. Later in high school, a boy in my class liked to have sleepovers one on one at his home. That should have been a red flag - 16 is a bit old for sleepovers. He made an aggressive pass at me while I pretended to be asleep and he eventually went away. The scary thing is that I believe these are pretty typical experiences for boys growing up. And that was nearly fifty years ago. The world hasn't gotten any better since then!

On the other hand, I had scores of sleepovers and campouts with my group of friends for years, and nothing happened. Most were supervised by our parents. Still, I really don't like sleepovers. Neither does mom. And if you read "A Parents Guide" from the Church (excellent advice on what challenges kids face at each age, and how to help them through it), it also discourages sleepovers. Supervised camp outs like family outings and girls camp, scout outings are fine as their is an adult nearby. 

May I suggest that you hold a parents council with your spouse and talk about your experiences, and what you think are good rules for your kids. You were kids too - what other insights do you have? (If you have significant insights, I'd love it if you were to share them with the rest of us).

All of my emails are solely my opinion, and you are expressly given permission to disagree with me. Take this and every email with a grain of salt. I hope you find some small value in them. Hopefully, you never have to deal with any of this.

Love, Dad

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