Mary Bridge Children's Hospital

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Protecting Your Children From Abuse

Tips for keeping your children safe

The Mary Bridge Child Abuse Intervention Department is dedicated to combating child abuse by supporting parents’ and caregivers’ efforts to protect children from abuse. Here are several ways you can protect your children -- and teach them to protect themselves:

  • Teach your children their full names, phone number and address.
  • Teach your children never to get into a car or go with someone they don’t know.
  • Teach your child that if they get lost in a public place not to wander around but to go to a checkout counter, security office, or lost and found.
  • Teach your children not to assist adults. If an adult asks a child for directions, to help find a lost puppy, etc., the child should get an adult. Adults should ask adults for help, not children.
  • Teach your children the correct terms for all their body parts so they are comfortable with their own bodies and have the vocabulary to talk about a touching problem. Children can’t tell you if they have received an inappropriate touch if they don’t have the words to describe the touch. If a child uses a slang term for a body part another adult, such as a teacher or group leader, may not understand the meaning of the term and as a result abuse may not be identified.
  • Children need to be taught that their bodies are their own and that they have a right not to be touched in a way that is uncomfortable, scary, or confusing. If they feel something is not okay, tell them to tell the person “NO, get away as soon as they can, tell a trusted adult, and keep telling until they get the help they need.
  • Some touches start out okay but turn out to be not okay when the person won’t stop, such as tickling. Make sure your children understand they can always say, “stop”. Let your children know that if they wonder if a touch is okay or not, they can ask you. Be aware that sometimes using the terms good touches and bad touches can be confusing because inappropriate touching can sometimes feel good.
  • Help your children identify at least three trusted adults they can talk to if they get an uncomfortable, scary, or confusing touch.
  • Teach your children that no one has the right to ask them to keep a secret that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Help them understand the difference between a surprise, such as keeping a secret about a birthday present, and a bad secret, such as keeping a secret about something that make them feel bad or uncomfortable. Secret friendships, secret touches, and secret places are not okay.
  • Teach your children accurate and healthy values about sexuality. When a child asks a question give accurate information in terms the child will understand.
  • Answer only what they child asks and avoid long explanations. Answering first questions opens the door to your child feeling comfortable in bringing more advanced questions or more serious problems to you later.
  • Review safety rules and good and bad touching with your children periodically. Talking about this does NOT put ideas into children’s heads.
  • Teach your children appropriate boundaries by talking with them and by role-modeling healthy boundaries, such as all family members must wear clothing and must respect individual rights to privacy in dressing, bathing, or sleeping.
  • Never leave your children with anyone you don’t know well, abuses substances, or has a history of sexual offending. Be aware that having a history of any type of criminal behavior increases the risk for abuse. Trust your feelings if someone makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Get to know the parents of your child’s friends before allowing your child to visit their home. Know their first and last names, their address, and phone number.
  • Get to know and check out anyone your child spends time with (i.e., teachers, youth group leaders regardless of what agency they represent, babysitters, daycare providers).
  • Be suspicious of any adult who wants to spend a lot of time with your child. Adults should have adult friends not friends who are children.
  • Be suspicious if any adult gives your child presents or treats on an on-going basis. Sexual abuse usually begins with a sex offender gaining both the parent’s and the child’s trust and friendship.
  • Monitor and limit your child’s internet access. Review what is on your child’s computer.
  • If your child discloses abuse, respond in a calm, matter-of-fact way and reassure your child he or she has done nothing wrong and was right to tell. Don’t ask your child leading questions. Notify CPS and Law Enforcement and they will coordinate the investigation.

If you have any questions about touching, concerns about your child’s safety or need help understanding age appropriate sexual development, contact Mary Bridge Child Abuse Intervention Department at 253-403-1478 and ask to talk to a social worker.