How to Protect our Children from Abuse
The second step to preventing child abuse—after defining it—is to protect our own children from it.
As parents, we are our children’s first line of defense against abuse. We provide the vital supervision, training, and support that protect our children from mistreatment by others.
Some types of abuse are especially difficult to identify and prevent. One of the most challenging is sexual abuse, which almost always occurs in secret, happens more often than we would like to believe, and profoundly impacts its victims. Teaching healthy sexuality to our children is already a tough job—how do we also provide the tools and information our children need to be armed against abuse?
As homeschooling parents, we know that educating our children well is a key to their success in life. We won’t always be able to keep them close by, so from their earliest years we begin teaching them how to function independently from us.
Education is key to protecting our children from sexual abuse. We need to educate ourselves about sexual abuse and its prevention; ignoring this painful topic won’t make it go away. And we need to educate our children so that they can recognize and stop behavior that is sexually inappropriate toward them.
Steps to Take
Here are some important principles that can help you protect your children from abuse.
- Teach your children the names of body parts. This can be helpful even for very young children. Without such a vocabulary, your child may not have the ability to disclose sexual abuse.
- Help your children become aware of physical boundaries. Just as you teach your children not to hurt others or invade their personal space, let them know that it is not okay for other people to do those things to them. In order to help with understanding these physical boundaries, some families do not require their children to show physical affection to adults outside the immediate family if they feel uncomfortable doing so.
- Give your children age-appropriate information about sex and abuse. Naive children are targets for molestation. Young children can learn simply that it’s not okay for other people to touch the parts of their bodies that would be covered by a bathing suit. As children age, there is a natural progression in the type of sexual information that is appropriate for them to learn. You can proactively provide this information in a way that reflects your family’s unique values.
- Model healthy relationships. Your children absorb their most basic understanding of love, gender, and sexuality from the way you and your spouse interact with each other. Your actions teach on a much deeper level than your words do.
- Understand that sexual abuse can happen in your family, church, or community. Most sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the victim knows. This could be a parent, sibling, relative, friend, neighbor, or church member. Don’t think, “It could never happen here” or “It could never happen to my child.” Know the risks, be discerning about whom you allow to supervise your children, and pay close attention to how your child seems to feel about the various people with whom he or she interacts.
- Teach your children self-protection. Children need to know about “stranger danger”—they should never go anywhere with a stranger. But they also need to know what to do if someone they trust begins acting inappropriately toward them: say no, leave the situation, and get help from a safe adult.
A Word about Domestic Abuse and Child Abuse
What if your spouse is victimizing you or your children? Men and women are both capable of abusing their spouse and children physically, emotionally, and sexually. If this is your situation, please remember that your children are dependent on you, the non-abusive parent, to make wise decisions about their protection and care.
Our resource page (link is below) provides information that can help you decide what to do. Please talk to someone you trust, and begin getting help from supportive sources such as a church or community organization. In some situations, such as sexual abuse, it is vital that your children be out of the reach of the abusive parent.
Facing up to abuse in your own family is not easy to do. If you are afraid to address it, remember that you are not alone—many other people have experienced your situation, and there is much help available. It takes courage, but you can make decisions that will help your children feel loved and protected no matter what has happened in their past.
Do you need help right away?
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) and press 1 to speak with a hotline counselor 24/7. All calls are anonymous. The hotline counselors do not report abuse, but can tell you how to get help in your local area. For more information about the hotline, visit Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline or Help for Kids.
Focus on the Family
Focus on the Family offers a wealth of resources ranging from education to help for families in crisis. Visit Focus on the Family or call 1-855-771-HELP (4357), Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. Mountain Time to speak with Focus on the Family Help Center counselors.
If there is an emergency, please call 911.
Please note: Nothing on this webpage constitutes the giving of legal advice.