Tuesday 11 May 2010

'Good Secret - Bad Secret' - How do we protect our children?

What a topic! Not one I ever thought I would blog about but here I am doing just that and feeling that I must share what I learnt last night in the hope that some others parents can become enlightened and help to protect their children.

Do you even have any idea what I am talking about yet?

Child protection issues, making sure (as much as we can) that our children avoid abuse of any kind.

Yesterday night, after a long day at work and running around like a loony to get the kids to bed I arrived at Church for 7.30pm to attend a 3 hour session on Child Protection - boring was my first thought and where's the coffee was my second. I could not think of anything I would rather do than sit there and listen to this boredom but actually it was a real eye opener for me and I am so glad that I went. I will be there again next week for part two.

The NSPCC state that approximately 6% of all UK children suffer from some kind of abuse (be it physical, emotional or sexual). How horrifying is that? When you relate that figure to your child's school or to the amount of parent blogs that you read it means that about 6 out of every 100 helpless children that you have read about or seen have, or are being abused. It tears my heart apart to think about this and that is probably why I have never thought about it before.

We all assume that our child is safe, we are great parents in this regard - aren't we? Our kids only stay with very trusted babysitters, we monitor their Internet use, we walk them to school and back, they only attend recognised and regulated after school groups etc etc. However, this is just us being naive.

Last night they stated that about 6 single children are abducted by strangers in the UK every year and this is tragic, 6 too many! I am sure if I pose the question - 'How many of you have taught your children to be stranger aware?', you would raise your hand and say yes I have and quite rightly so, we want to do the best by our kids.

What about if I now ask, 'How many of you have taught your children to be weary of people they know, people they even love?', 'Who has taught their children protection strategies to help them avoid any kind of abuse?'. Chances are you might now say no, I have not. It never occurred to me it was necessary. I definitely fall into this category. I do not want to scare my child and tell them about things that I pray will never happen to them, this was my first thought last night.

Then they went on to explain that you do not have to tell your child specifics or give them graphic details, that is not what protection strategies are for. I bet your 6 year old (if you have one) could tell you it is dangerous to get run over by a bus or to touch the electrics with wet hands but he probably could not tell you what would actually happen to him if he did either of those things. He just knows they are dangerous and not good.

It is the same kind of principle with teaching our children how to protect themselves. You do not tell them what might happen, you just make them aware that whatever contact (physical, verbal or whatever) that any other child or adult has with them they have to be completely happy with. Last night they talked about the concept of good secrets - bad secrets. A good secret is keeping a surprise for Mummies birthday, a bad secret is any one that makes the child feel uneasy inside. If we could just install this one single thing in every child, that it is always OK to tell a bad secret to a responsible adult then that would be a marvellous step forward.

I just want to add that I am not making light of this really serious subject, I am aware someone reading this might of been abused themselves and be thinking that avoiding abuse is just not as simple as telling the secret when you are petrified of the abuser or sure that it is your own fault. All I am saying is the more we can teach boundaries to our children of what is acceptable and what is not the better equipped they will be.

If anyone has any strategies, ways of teaching children these boundaries or such I would love to hear, please leave me a comment as I will be having a conversation with JJ in the next few days. With regards to the girls my gut reaction is that they are perhaps too young to understand right now and that in a year or so I might be having the same conversation with them. When do you think is the right age to broach this kind of subject?

I think after writing such a drastic post I have to add some balance and say, remember that it is only a small minority of people who are abusers. Most of us love children and do everything in our power to protect them but I will leave you with this final question. Your house will probably never be burgled but would you take the risk and have no insurance? No me neither, I want to provide that insurance for my kids as much as I can.


The course material was produced by the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service and was very good. They have some useful info on their website.