Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: General Strategies
- Know who your child is spending time with. Get to know your child’s friends and their families, their teammates, their school friends, coaches, and other important people in their life. With the other adults in your household, clarify your family's values about sexuality to ensure consistent communications with your children. See checklist.
- Be an involved parent. Show your child that you care by knowing where they are and who they are spending time with.
- Be affectionate. Do lots of hugging, cuddling and rocking - it won’t spoil your baby but will add to feelings of trust and security, the building blocks of intimacy and sexual health and safety
- Create an atmosphere of open communication. Let your child know that it is safe to share with you and ask questions, that it is not okay to have secrets. See our fact sheets for age-specific suggestions for talking with your child about sexual development.
- Choose caregivers wisely. Screen potential caregivers to ensure that they are safe. This includes babysitters, tutors, coaches, and any other adults who have ongoing access to your child.
- Be media smart and savvy. Know what apps your child is using and check your child’s devices regularly to ensure your child is not engaging in any inappropriate communications. Get to know the rating systems of video games, movies, and television shows and make use of the parental controls available through many internet, cable, and satellite providers. Providing appropriate alternatives is an important part of avoiding exposure to sexual content in the media.
- Know the warning signs. Become familiar with the signs so that you can step in
before something happens.
- Choose activities and programs carefully. Determine the hiring and other child
safety practices used by any program or organization where you plan to enroll your child.
See checklist here: https://www.sexwiseparent.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/SWP-checklist-for-child-care-and-camp.pdf
- Talk with your child’s pediatrician. If you have any concerns about your child’s
behavior talk with your child's pediatrician. He or she can work with you to distinguish age-
appropriate and normal sexual behaviors from behaviors that are developmentally
inappropriate or signal potential abuse. Asking for help means you want what is best for
your child, and you will do whatever you can to help him or her succeed.
Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Children Birth to Three Years
- Explain wanted and unwanted touch and teach children that they have a right to say no to unwanted touch.
- Don’t force the child to be affectionate with someone (such as hugging a grandparent)
Be safe, loving, and available.
- Create an atmosphere of open communication and let your child know that it is safe to share with you and ask questions, that it is not okay to have secrets from a parent
- Choose caregivers wisely to ensure that they are safe. Don’t make assumptions based on age, gender, or reputation.
- Limit and monitor media devices to ensure no exposure to sexual or violent material
Talk with your child’s pediatrician if you have any concerns or questions.
Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Children Four to Six Years
- Explain wanted and unwanted touch and teach that it is okay to say no to unwanted touch.
- Explain that sexual abuse is when someone touches private parts or asks the child to touch their private parts – even if it is someone the child knows.
- Explain that sexual abuse is NEVER the child’s fault.
- Teach what to do if a stranger tries to get the child to go with them.
- Teach who to tell if someone does “not okay” things.
- Don’t force the child to be affectionate with someone (such as hugging a grandparent).
- Be safe, loving, and available.
- Be an involved parent and know where the child is and who the child is with.
- Create an atmosphere of open communication and let the child know that it is safe to share and ask questions, that it is not okay to have secrets from a parent.
- Choose caregivers and activities wisely to ensure that they are safe. Don’t make assumptions based on age, gender or the reputation.
- Limit and monitor media devices to ensure no exposure to sexual or violent material.
- Talk with your child’s pediatrician about any questions or concerns.
Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Children Seven to Twelve Years
- Teach personal rights (e.g., “your body belongs to you”).
- Teach interpersonal responsibilities (e.g., treat boys and girls equally).
- Teach the concept of granting and requesting consent.
- Teach that sexual abuse may or may not involve touch.
- Teach how to maintain safety and personal boundaries online.
- Teach how to recognize and avoid risky social situations.
- Develop safe dating rules.
- Speak to your child around sexual arousal and attraction, and the difference between physical sensations and real love.
- Provide ongoing information about the physical and emotional aspects of puberty.
- Provide age-appropriate sexuality information and basic information about sexual behaviors and sexually transmitted infections.
Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Children Thirteen Years And Older
- Avoid lecturing - talk with him or her, not at them. Use television, movies, music, and news stories to open discussions.
- Make home a place where your teen and their friends are always accepted and welcome.
- Maintain expressions of affection with your child, too often parents shy away from physical affection with teens, fearing their own potential genital arousal. Modeling healthy physical affection is key.
- Set limits together - negotiate and discuss the need both of you have – you to ensure their safety and them to experience independence.
- Talk about what it means to be sexually moral - consider the immorality of using another person, of bringing an unwanted baby into the world, of spreading sexually transmitted infections., of requesting or sharing explicit photos, etc.
- Be honest about your own feelings if you disagree with your teen’s choice of friends and/or lifestyle.
- Teens reach the legal age of majority as young as age 16 in some states - including NYS. know the law in your state and be sure your teen knows the implication of activities like sending nude photos, sharing sexually explicit emails and other behaviors that could be considered pornography, abuse, bullying or harassment.
- Talk about the different expectations teens may have from each other - what might they be looking for through sexual activity? Affection? A committed relationship?
- Discuss the kinds of “lines” teens use on each other to initiate sexual activity and reinforce your family’s value of honesty over deceit.
- Help your teen make good decisions by suggesting how to get information - they need factual, unbiased information on contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual response, sexual violence, and other topics.
If you don’t fulfill your teen’s need for information about sex, someone or something else will. All too often it’s on-line pornography, the absolutely worst source of accurate information and healthy values.
- Remember, very little can be accomplished when talking about sex turns into an argument.