Tips for Talking to Kids About Predators

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There are some parenting topics that are very difficult to address.  Melissa is back this week with some startling information and helpful tips about talking to kids about predators.  I hope you will take the time to read and digest this very important information.  Thanks, Melissa.

This week in my town there was an incident that scared the daylights out of parents of school-aged children.  Police alerted the community to what was believed to be an attempted abduction of a seven-year-old girl who was riding her bike home from school.  It was the type of scenario we all dread and fear:  man grabs the girl and tells her to put her bike in the trunk of his car.  Thankfully, she sped away and told the parent at home, who called the police.  A day later, it was reported that it was actually a case of mistaken identity, not attempted abduction.  An older grandfather whose eyesight is failing thought he was addressing his granddaughter, whom he was supposed to pick up on that particular day.

While parents across our district breathed a sigh of relief and the police department shook off their embarrassment for sounding the high alarm, others, like my husband and I, took it as an opportunity to refresh our family’s protection plan and talk to our kids—again—about “stranger danger” and safe touching.

You may wonder, won’t that just scare my kids?  Isn’t it my job to protect them and not alarm them about dangers that are not likely to happen, if I keep close watch?  Wrong.  While this was a case—albeit, a mistaken one—of abduction, which is less common, sexual abuse of children is a very frightening and common reality with serious consequences.  Like stranger danger, it should be discussed with children even before they attend grade school and reviewed on a regular basis.

If you think the possibility of a man trying to grab your child on her way home from school is alarming, listen to these facts about sexual abuse:

 

  • Child sexual abuse is the use of a child for sexual purposes by an adult or older, more powerful person, including an older child. It is a crime in all 50 states (Committee for Children).
  • Studies suggest that about 1 out of every 5 American women and 1 out of every 10–20 American men experienced some form of sexual abuse when they were young (Committee for Children).
  • An estimated 180,500 children in the United States were sexually abused in 2005-2006 (Sedlak et al., 2010).
  • Most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts. Snyder (2000) found that nine out of ten children who have been sexually assaulted know their attacker.
  • The offender often uses a position of power to take advantage of a child, usually developing a relationship before any sexual abuse takes place as part of a process known as “victim grooming.”
  • Young children are at the greatest risk.  Studies show that one third to one half of victims are under age 7 when the abuse begins.
  • Sexual abuse occurs in children from every culture, walk of life, and socioeconomic status.  Boy or girl, no one is exempt from the risk.
  • Children are not likely to reveal that abuse is taking place.  Studies show that only 2-4 of every 10 victims will tell an adult at the time of the incident, and even fewer will tell the authorities.

 

Scared?  You should be.  Our children are vulnerable, but there are ways for parents to prevent possible victimization.

 

  • From an early age, allow your child to say no to hugs or other affection, even from family members.  Children should be encouraged to maintain physical boundaries that feel comfortable to them.
  • Talk to your child about safe touching versus unsafe and unwanted touching.
  • Be sure your child understands proper names for their private parts, and that no one other than a parent (for a young child, for cleaning purposes), or a physician may ever touch them there.
  • Teach your child that while it is important to obey adults, particularly parents and teachers, they do not have to obey adults if an adult attempts to break safe touching rules, or otherwise entice the child to act outside of family rules or expectations.
  • Be open to answering questions your child may have, and do not hesitate to review the topic from time to time, particularly surrounding events such as the one which took place in our community.

 

For more information about how to talk to your child about safe touching, visit the website of the Committee for Children, at http://www.cfchildren.org/advocacy/child-safety.aspx

 

 

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Tips for Communicating with Older Children

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It’s back to school across the country, but in my house school has been in full-swing for almost four weeks.  While our family has mostly settled into the swing of things, there have been a few areas needing attention.  The biggest challenge so far has been communicating with our son regarding homework.  Since we homeschooled last year, his last public school experience was first grade, a cake walk compared to third.  This year, his responsibilities include copying homework assignments off the blackboard into his planner first thing in the morning, and then packing his backpack with the appropriate assignments at the end of the day.  He also has to remember to return home his chapter book, lunch box and water bottle.  It’s a lot for him, given the jump from homeschool to classroom.

Communicating with an older child is not always an easy task, particularly at the end of a long day.  But it is an essential component of the parent-teacher connection and to your child’s success in school.  Here are some suggestions to help your child overcome a struggle in a particular area of the new school routine.

 

Step 1.  Review the process:

Ask your student about the routine at school that relates to the area of struggle.  For us it was homework, so it began with a simple question of, “How do you know your homework assignments?”  The answer, “It’s on the board and I have to copy it.”  Additional clarifying questions like, “What happens when you first get into the room, what do you do?”  Followed by, “And then what?” until you get a clear picture of what is happening.

 

Step 2.  Search for holes in the story:

Is there something that doesn’t quite make sense?  Ask more questions.  Clarify, in a gentle way, so that you can understand what the teacher expects of the student.  If you can’t get a clear picture from your child, email or call the teacher.  It is essential that parents understand what the child is being asked to do, so that you can help him or her practice at home, if necessary.

 

Step 3.  Work on a solution:

For us, it made sense to help him create a routine.  From our careful questioning, we learned that he was using his super-hero mental powers to recall his homework while packing up, rather than checking against his planner or the board.  So he and I worked out a step-by-step routine for how to pack up his homework.

 

Step 4.  Break it down:

Your child may need to be walked through the details.  Ask open-ended questions such as, “What do you think you should do next?” to see if he can come up with the right idea.  If not, gently suggest, “Do you think it would help if…” to elicit agreement.

 

Step 5.  Write it down:

Pull out an index card and write out the steps, with your child’s help.  Use a few words with clear instructions.  The card can be put in a pencil box or backpack, to be pulled out for the first few days of getting in the habit of the new routine.

 

Step 6.  Encourage:

Encourage your child that he or she is doing great and that we all need to learn the skills necessary to be more organized.  Not everyone is born that way!  Follow up each day to check progress and tweak anything that might not be working.


Step 7.  Praise!  

Praise goes a long way toward reinforcing those good behaviors, and helps solidify them into lifelong habits.

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When Friends Say Goodbye…

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My family and I just returned from an amazing two week vacation in the Canadian Rockies.  The mountains were breathtakingly beautiful, and the experience was made even memorable by the fact that we shared it with special family members that we don’t get to see often.  Having lived near them for many years, we now have to maximize the time we do spend together, making memories and sharing belly laughs.

We had a strange return home, however.  Good family friends were moving out of state in just a day, so one of the first things we did after catching up on some much-needed sleep was to head over to their house for final goodbyes.  Seeing the last remnants of their home randomly scattered in a few remaining piles in the garage was all it took to bring our own moving memories flooding back.

Why is it so hard to say goodbye?  Even when–and perhaps, especially when– it is what you have wanted for so long, a move you know is in your family’s best interest?  Our girls gave teary hugs goodbye, while our boys went off for one last crazy bike ride down the street, forgetting the hug entirely (until we suggested he better go do it!).

Feeling nostalgic today, I went looking for an old photo of myself with my best friend from high school, opening one of the boxes that survived the 1100-mile journey we undertook just one year ago.  Not finding what I wanted, I was drawn to my old high school yearbook, laying right on top.  One glance inside the front cover revealed dozens of lengthy notes from former classmates, close friends and acquaintances alike promising to never forget each other, declaring friendship, love, and demanding that “No matter what, you have to stay in touch!”.  Sweet words, well-meant at the time, but gone by the wayside many years ago.  Of a dozen or two good friends, there is only one with whom I remain in touch, whose babies I’ve held and whose kids have shared precious beach vacations with mine.  We were in each other’s weddings and have encouraged each other through many ups and downs of motherhood and family life, even to this day.  The same holds true for friends from college, graduate school, and life beyond as my husband and I have moved our way from Boston down the East Coast.

I like to tell my daughter that friends are like charms on a charm bracelet.  You can collect many, and while they look pretty for a time, there are some–many, in fact– that you will leave behind.  Whether one of you moves, or your life changes and you drift apart.  Regardless of the reason I believe there are only a few “true” friends out there for each of us.  I have been blessed that at the end of each phase of my life, each city that I’ve lived in or school I’ve attended, I have collected at least one golden friend who remains with me, wherever I go.

Tomorrow I am driving five hours with my three kids, alone, because my daughter’s golden friend is that much closer than usual.  Both of us moved in the same year, two years ago, and our girls, true soul sisters, BFF’s for life, were devastated.  But in the spirit of friendship- and recognizing that theirs is a true friendship, one built on mutual acceptance and love– as families we have determined to do what so many of my high school classmates wanted to do: we are staying in touch.

Who do you stay in touch with, personally and as a family?  How do you determine when a friendship is “golden,” and worth working hard to keep?

 

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Play More, Stress Less

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When I was in college, I spent a glorious summer on the North Shore of Boston as a live-in nanny.  The job was easy and fun.  I loved playing with the three kids, aged 9, 7, and 5, both at home and at their country club swimming pool.  At age 19, I truly enjoyed being around kids, and it was a great gig for me to be working on my tan while keeping them happy and entertained while their mom was able to play golf or tennis.  I recall thinking, however, that it was too bad for the kids that they didn’t get to play with their own mom.  If she happened to be around, they would call for her to watch them, interrupting her conversation with the other club moms on the lounge chairs poolside.  She would pay attention on occasion, but more often than not, I stepped in with the attention.  After all, that was my job!

 

Now that I am a mom of kids the exact same age this summer, it is interesting to see how times have changed.  I am now the mom sitting by the pool sunbathing and chatting with friends, while my kids are calling for me to “Look, look!” and begging for me to jump in with them.  Most of the time, I don’t.  I am dying for a break, a chance to chill and enjoy the fact that they are occupied in the pool.  But sometimes, I take the plunge.  I forget about the fact that I’ll have to redo my hair, or that I’ll be cold, or whatever the concern might be.  I take the risk to just have fun, to play.  And boy do they respond.

 

My girlfriend who was hanging here with me did the same thing the other day, bringing pure joy to her kids’ spirits, and it made me think about what we as moms need to do so that we can be ready to jump in and play with our kids.

 

Make Time for Yourself

Face it, if you have children, you won’t have time to yourself unless you make it happen.  You need to figure out when and how it can happen, and make sure it does.  Whether it’s a coffee date with a friend, a manicure, or even just alone time with a good book while the hubby does the bedtime routine, you need to do this for yourself.

 

Know What Matters Most to Your Kids

For my kids, it’s time with mom in the pool. What is it that your kids desire to do with you?  Some recreational activities kids seem fine to do alone, but for others they are just yearning to do it in relationship with Mom or Dad; it all depends on the individual child, their interests and hobbies, and what matters most to them.  Discovering what type of quality time your child values most is the key to maximizing your quality time together.

 

Just Jump In

Once you have figured out what it is your child is craving, and you’ve met your own needs (even if it’s just a small bit–be honest), it’s time to take the plunge.  Put down your work, forget about the call you were about to make, the dishes that need to be done.  These things can wait.  Time with your precious child simply won’t.  You will never regret the moments you carve out to spend time with the ones you truly love, and chances are, you will end up enjoying it as much as them!

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Tips for Getting Started with Homeschooling

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As the school year draws to a close across the country, many of us are already thinking ahead to the fall.  Whether your first child is entering Kindergarten or you’ve had kids in school for years, you may be thinking about your expectations and hopes for the upcoming year.  Perhaps you are even considering not going through with the “school thing” at all.

That was me, a few years ago.  I began to explore homeschooling when our oldest was in preschool, but ultimately decided to send her to school, where she, followed by her younger brother, remained until our family began a relocation odyssey where the final stop was TBD.  Changing schools is not easy on kids, and until we knew for certain where we would settle, we decided to give homeschooling a try prior to what would have been the children’s third school in as many years.

 

Thinking about homeschooling?  Here are some tips to get you started.

 

Talk to Friends

First, if you haven’t done so already, talk to people you know who homeschool, or use your social network to find someone who does.  Chances are, it won’t be very hard to do since homeschooling is rising in popularity as a schooling option.

 

Ask Questions

Don’t be shy about talking to a friend or a new acquaintance you have found who is willing to share their homeschooling experience with you.  Most homeschoolers are proud of what they do, have tremendous knowledge about it, and are eager to share with interested families.  Ask questions such as:

– Which curriculum do you use?

– Are you using any outside programs, co-ops, or online schools?

– How much does (that curriculum or program) cost?

– What social or support groups are in our area, and which (if any) are involved with?

– What has been the most challenging aspect of homeschooling for you?

– What has been the most rewarding?

 

Be a Fly on the Wall

Ask your friend or contact person if you can shadow them for a day.  Visit their home to see what their “school” looks like.  All families are wonderfully different!  Some have a dedicated “school room,” while others spread their work on the kitchen or dining room table between meals.  Getting to see multiple homeschool families in action is a great way to glimpse what your day might be like.

 

Explore Your Options

Today’s homeschoolers have a myriad of options for home learning.  If you knew anyone when you were growing up who was homeschooled, chances are you have a certain presupposition of what homeschooling is like.  Wipe that idea from your mind as you explore options that take homeschooling out of the home and into the community through support groups, co-ops, and programs that offer peer learning opportunities in different settings.  These options range by state and region, so again it is important to talk to local homeschoolers to see what they are using, but you can also search online.  There are numerous websites, blogs, online support groups and Facebook pages, as well as national organizations devoted to sharing state-by-state information regarding homeschooling laws, groups, and other pertinent information.

 

Relax and Enjoy the Ride

All of the information out there can make exploring homeschooling an overwhelming experience, but do not fret!  Just as when you were an expectant mom and perhaps found yourself bogged down by information overload, you will soon find your way as you navigate the vast world of homeschooling opportunities.

 

Further Reading

For more information about homeschooling, check out the Homeschool Legal Defense Association at: http://www.hslda.org/hs/

 Have you ever considered homeschooling?

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