The holidays can be a wonderful time of gathering with family and friends. However, for some, those times can also be moments of worry and uneasiness. One fairly common concern we hear about is in regards to a friend or relative who makes a parent feel uncomfortable and causes fear about their child being alone with that person. Perhaps there is no past history or anything you can put your finger on, but your gut is saying beware. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.
So how do you handle this without stirring up trouble? First of all, understand that some people are just quirky and not necessarily a threat, but you can’t just discount your feelings. Your main priority is protecting your child, so set up boundaries. If you have a Family Safe List, that is easy. Only a very few people whom you completely trust are on that list… for everyone else, family or not, your child knows to check with you before interacting with them. So if “Uncle Bill” wants to go for a walk or the back yard to play with your child, you can go along… or say you’d rather your child stays close.
As a parent with a concern, you need to be more vigilant and not let the distractions of the gathering keep you from monitoring your child’s whereabouts. You should also keep an eye on the person causing the worry. If your child is not an easy target, there might be some who are more accessible. Looking out for the well-being of children is a responsibility we all share.
When it comes to hugs and kisses, PLEASE. NEVER force your child to provide affection. It doesn’t matter who it is, if your child doesn’t want to give them a hug or kiss, then that is okay and you need to back them up. Forcing such behavior says to your child, your feelings don’t matter and you don’t have a choice as to whom you must show affection. Is that a message you want to send to your child? Absolutely NOT.
It’s easy to explain to “that” friend or relative the reasoning behind not forcing your child to hug them. Kids sometimes don’t want to show affection and that is okay… there doesn’t have to be a reason.
The hard facts are that 93% of sexually victimized children know their abuser… 39% of the time it is a family member. 90% of child molesters are not registered sex offenders, as they have never been caught. They are out there and you and your child will come in contact with them.
Empower your kids with the confidence to stand up for themselves, an understanding of personal boundaries and how to recognize and react when those boundaries are being crossed and strive to create open lines of communication so that you can talk openly with your child at the same time letting them know they can talk to you about anything.
Of course, if you ever witness inappropriate behavior or your child tells you something happened, report it. Kids, especially younger ones, don’t make this stuff up. Believe what your child tells you and take action. Often the trauma of telling and not being believed is as harmful as the abuse.
For some it can be a tough decision to report a friend or family member, but you must remember that person is sick and needs help. You can never let the image of the family get in the way of protecting children. Don’t look the other way, if needed, have conversations with others to confirm your suspicions and report it. A child molester who is not caught will most often traumatize dozens and dozens of children over the course of his lifetime.