Kas Winters

Keep your Child Safe

Keep your Child Safe

Kas Winters

Kas Winters

My articles are usually about family fun, but the topic this month is far from that—and very necessary to address. Abuse is a word that seems to come up more frequently in headlines and conversations. Whether this is because it is happening more or because people have finally brought it to the forefront as an issue to be recognized; it is time to act, to protect, and to heal. As parents, grandparents, teachers, or youth leaders, we are now more aware of, not only the dangers and ways abuse can completely change the lives of our young people, but also of actions we can take to protect our kids.

The first step is to teach our children, as they grow in their ability to understand. Make sure they know the difference between “good touches” and unacceptable ones. Emphasize the idea that they should tell someone if there is ever (or has been) a situation where someone made them uncomfortable. Let a child know that you will always love them, unconditionally, no matter what. Establish and work to maintain open lines of communication with children which are non-judgmental. We have heard about “stranger danger” but, unfortunately, chances are a perpetrator could be someone a child knows and trusts.

There are two things that are prevalent in abusive situations. The first is that the victim is made to believe that whatever occurred is their fault. They think they are guilty because they either caused or deserved what happened. The second is that it is a secret. They are made to believe they must never tell anyone or the consequences would be more horrific than what they have already experienced. This kind of guilt and fear ruins lives. Teach children to tell if something occurs. A child cannot cause abuse and if it happens it is not their fault. Abusers lie to get what they want, and to continue doing so.

Give your children tools to use that an abuser might not expect. If there are other people within hearing range, find a way to make noise. (Even if the abuser quiets them, someone might hear it and decide to check it out. The risk of that happening could, in some cases, cause the person to stop to avoid to caught.) As they get older, make them aware of situations to avoid, actions they can take, even a code word to use so they can call home and let you know there is something wrong and they can’t tell you what it is. Choose something you will immediately recognize and can take action.

Often, children, teens, and even adults, do not realize they are in an abusive situation. This is especially true if the abuse is not physical, but rather mental and emotional. Make sure your children know the following things as they are old enough to comprehend the information. FIRST, provide a list of the signs of abuse. Talk about the subject. Knowledge can be prevention and power. For so long, such conversations were taboo. Kids need to know the red flags in order to avoid them. Abusers try to isolate a victim. They make the victim believe they caused the problem, blaming the them for what happened. Abusers are more likely to go for someone who is weak and does not have a strong sense of confidence and knowledge. SECOND, maintain a situation where a child is comfortable talking to you about anything. THIRD, watch for changes in a child or teen’s demeanor. If a usually happy kid becomes depressed and withdrawn, don’t ignore the situation. FOURTH, be aware of people who are in contact with your child or children. Those who abuse usually do not come across as mean and scary in public, but are quite friendly, and inviting to win confidence and hide their intent. FIFTH, avoid situations where children have  one-on-one time with an individual. As someone who has spent a great deal of time teaching children in a variety of circumstances, the idea of “two-deep leadership” is something I believe can make a difference. Always make sure there are at least two adults present when your kids are involved in activities. It might be inconvenient, but it’s a really good idea. Be cautious of any activity where the opportunity for one-on-one secluded contact is possible. Be aware. If abuse does occur, don’t judge, but reassure the child and get help to heal.

There is a list of Symptoms of Abuse from the Mayo Clinic at this link. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/child-abuse/DS01099/DSECTION=symptoms  For older family members, including adults, there is also a list of warning signs available from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project at http://www.duluth-model.org


My Website carries several books to help with avoiding, recognizing, and healing abuse. These include books for very young children, teens, and adults.


Check out my NEW book Get that Book out of your Head and into Print http://www.yourwordsinprint.com


Kas Winters, “Mother of Family Ideas”

Winmark Communications & Everything Family