Teach young children the language they need to talk about their bodies and information about boundaries to help them understand what is allowed and what is inappropriate. These lessons help them know when something isn’t right and give them the power to speak up.
Teach children about their body parts
When you educate your child about their body parts, they might find it easier to express themselves if problems do crop up. It’s also useful to teach them about which parts shouldn’t be touched or looked at by anyone under any circumstances.
Reassure them that they won't get into trouble
Sometimes children are afraid of speaking out because they fear the repercussions. Keep an open line of communication going with your kids so it makes it easier for them to talk to you when they have problems, be it about bullying or inappropriate language. Remind them that they will not be punished for confiding in you.
Talk to boys as well as girls
Parents often think they only have to have safety conversations with girls but not including boys in these issues can be detrimental. We need to have talks with our sons as well about boundaries, respecting the body, personal space and what is and what is not acceptable behaviour. Only then can we truly tackle the issue of sexual harassment.
Use pop culture as a reference
With older kids, its often easier to connect with them on sensitive topics by using pop culture references. Experts say a good starting point would be to watch a show with your child and talk to them about why certain scenarios are good or bad behaviours to emulate and why.
Listen more, speak less
It’s tempting to bombard your child with a million questions when they come to you with a problem. But it pays off to be a good listener as well. Just be there for them and let the conversation flow. Be attentive, and offer suggestions when they ask for it but let them speak, they will more likely come to you again and again if they feel like they are being heard.
Talk to them about caring for their friends
National hurdler Kerstin Ong described how she was ostracised by her friends when she tried to talk to them about their assistant coach’s inappropriate behaviour. When talking about sexual assault with your teen, remind them to look out for their friends as well, and not just their own behaviour so they can be guided to do the right thing when the occasion arises.
Constantly tailor your conversation about sexual assault
As your child grows up, their encounters and experiences with sexual misconduct may change. That’s why it’s important that you have regular conversations with them. You would say something very different to a 12-year-old than a 15-year-old, than an 18-year-old, than a 25-year-old. Tweak you conversation to allow for this developmental growth.
Don't stay silent
While conversations about sexual misconduct, rape and assault are never easy – especially with children – its imperative to do so to change how we as a society deal with these issues. Speaking up recently allowed lawmakers to sentence Bill Cosby to time in prison for aggravated assault of his one-time girlfriend.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, you can also visit AWARE to receive confidential support from a trained staff member.