It’s Child Abuse Prevention Month, and below are some tips and advice for parents and caregivers to help prevent and spot child abuse.
YMCA STAFF/VOLUNTEER CODE OF CONDUCT
The Y’s Code of Conduct creates guidelines for acceptable and unacceptable interactions between Y staff and volunteers and program participants – whether kids visit daily as part of a Y program or are staying in our Child Watch while you hit the gym. To learn more about our staff, members, participants, guests and volunteer Code of Conduct visit here
BOUNDARY VIOLATIONS AND WARNING SIGNS OF ABUSE
At the Y, creating safe spaces for youth to learn, grow and thrive is our top priority. When we all know and understand the behaviors of those who may seek to harm youth, we are empowered to interrupt and prevent suspicious or inappropriate behaviors.
Offenders seek three things in order to abuse: access, privacy and control.
What does this mean for a parent?
1) Know who has access to your children. For example,
a. When your children are at school, what are the school’s procedures for screening staff, volunteers, parents, etc.?
b. When your children attend a sleepover, who will be in the home?
2) Know what type of privacy is allowed. For example,
a. When your children play sports, can the coach be alone with a player?
b. When camp is over, can the counselor text your child?
c. When the program ends, is one adult ever alone with one child?
3) Know how offenders gain control through boundary violations. For example,
a. Physical boundaries violations – Excessive tickling, hugging, massaging, etc.
b. Emotional boundaries violations – Spending too much time with them; acting possessive; sharing personal information to make a child feel they have a special relationship, sending excessive or inappropriate texts or messages
c. Behavioral boundaries – Offenders manipulate kids into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do, such as: – Sneaking around – Keeping secrets – Looking at pornography – Use of drugs or alcohol
Open conversations between parents and children are one important aspect to helping prevent child abuse. Many parents/caregivers struggle with talking to their children about body autonomy and abuse. Visit our website to learn age-appropriate ways to talk with your children.
Talking with Your Children About Abuse
Many parents and caregivers find speaking to their children about abuse to be uncomfortable. Framing these conversations around other safety conversations you have may help you work through some of that uncomfortableness. Below you’ll find age-appropriate ways to talk to your child about boundaries and preventing abuse.
Parents can start these conversations simply by ensuring young children know the correct names for their body parts. Children who know the proper names are able to talk more clearly to parents or other adults if something inappropriate happens. As you’re teaching body part names, you can help your child learn that parts of their body are private and that only their parents/caregivers can see them. Don’t forget to note that doctors may see them naked but only because you’re there with the doctor!
Equally important is to teach children boundaries both for themselves and for others. Boundaries have easily teachable moments, such as when a child doesn’t want to hug a relative, or during a tickle fight a child yells “Stop!”. Allowing young children to set their own boundaries teaches them body autonomy and helps them know when something makes them uncomfortable so that they can speak up.
Many abusers will tell a child to keep abuse a secret. It’s important that children understand that adults should never ask them to keep a secret, and if they do, they should tell you.
As children grow older, it’s key to keep lines of conversation open, so that they feel comfortable talking to parents or trusted adults if something happens to them or a friend. Talk to your teens about their friends, the other adults in their lives, social media and electronic communication. They need to know to not accept requests from people they don’t know, how to respond if someone (even a friend) asks them to send nude photos and that conversations online are never truly private. Continue the conversations about boundaries and what boundary violations look and feel like. Let them know that you are there to listen and support them.
LISTENING AND RESPONDING TO CHILDREN
Child Abuse Prevention Month is all about preventing abuse, but it’s also important to know how to listen to and respond to children if they tell you about abuse.
Listening and Responding to Children
Now, it’s important that all parents and caregivers know how to respond to boundary violations and warning signs if children tell you about abuse. At the Y, we are mandated reporters, so we have procedures in place for responding and reporting suspected abuse. As a parent, you can follow these 5 steps:
1. Keep your eyes & ears open
2. Talk with your child
3. Ask your child about any concerns you have.
4. If what you learn from your child or what you have observed/overheard sounds like abuse, call Child Protective Services or the police.
5. If what you’ve heard or observed sounds like a boundary violation, suspicious or inappropriate behavior, or a policy violation:
a. Share your concerns with the employee/supervisor/person in charge of the organization.
b. If you are unable to do this, make a report to the organization by making a call, sending an email, or submitting an online form.