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One of the most essential parts of sexual abuse prevention and normal, healthy sexual development in children is to talk about it! This is step number 3 from the 5 Steps To Protecting our children from Darkness2light.org. As a mom of three children, kindergarten teacher, child development professional, and sexual abuse prevention facilitator… I can tell you with certainty that children are naturally curious creatures. There is nothing wrong with starting a healthy, developmentally appropriate,conversation with your child at an early age about thier bodies.
My first year of teaching kindergarten was a truly amazing experience. I was 23 years old and ready to get to work. I was fresh out of grad-school and thought I really knew what I was doing. One of my biggest regrets of this year was an experience I mis-handled. One of the little girls in my class came in one day and shared with me that her dad had been, “Taking her cookie”. I really didn’t ask any questions about this statement. I just told her to tell her dad to get his own cookie and redirected her back to work. The next day, she came in and report the same thing. However, she was crying. I stopped to ask a few more questions and then all of a sudden it hit me. I asked her to show me where her cookie was. She pointed to her private area. I felt horrible and sick to my stomach. I called the school nurse to come down and help. This child had reported a sexual abuse event to me and I didn’t get it right away. This experience helped me truly understand the value of language and using the correct terms when discussing private parts. Families have different words for private parts. However, it is very important that we teach our children the correct terms as well. In the event our child ever needs to report an incident, it is essential that they know the words to use that most people will understand.
In our book, “I SAID NO! a kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private” we simply say, “Private parts for boys are the parts of your body that are under your underwear. Private parts for girls are the parts of your body that are under your underwear and undershirt. There are doctor names for your private parts. We are sure you have heard of a few of them! You might want to talk about some of those names now“. Talking about it opens up a dialogue, provides comfort, and leads to understanding. It is a great idea to start the conversation of body parts as soon as possible. Our pediatrician, Dr. Christopher Wrubel, now uses our book to help start this important conversation with his patients at wellness check ups for young children. As children grow, the questions and information you need to share with them will change. In today’s world, it is more important than ever to have this conversation to protect your children from harm.
According to Darkness2Light, there are 5 simple steps that parents can take to help keep their children safe. Last week I discussed the first step, Learn the Facts. This week I will be discussing step 2: Minimize the Risk.
How to minimize the risk for your children as they navigate the unsafe waters of the internet and cell phones?
Access to the internet poses an enormous risk to children and as the parent you have the fortune of being somewhat in control of this topic at home. It is essential that you spend time researching this ever changing online world. Start by updating your parent controls and internet/phone safety plan. Review with your child the ways they can stay safe online. It is very important to monitor tweens and teens with their cell phone and internet usage. In our house, privacy online is not a right. Here is a great article posted recently by THE GUARDIAN. This article is a great place to start and offers many extra resources and videos.
Even when a parent monitors a child online, events can occur that are beyond our control. Sadly, a local girl from Suffolk, Virginia was lured away from her home and held against her will this year. This is a terrifying story and it could happen to any one of us who has a teen. Please click on this link and read the story of Sanise Hall. Denise Allen, Sanise’s mom, was already actively monitoring her daughter’s social media and online activities. According to the Pilot Online, “Allen was upset about text messages her daughter had been sending to boys she knew, and Allen told her she was going to start restricting social media access”.
Do not let your children under the age of 12 have unsupervised cell phone time or computer time. Use your parent controls on all devices while they are online. They can get into such a mess! There are a number of apps you can put on your phones and computers to help you keep track of your children and restrict access if needed. A friend of mine just shared with me a really cool app she uses to monitor and restrict her child and his internet time. Check out: OUR PACT
OUR PACT is an app you can install on your child’s phone. You can set hours for access to apps and it also shuts down the web browser. This app puts the control of app usage back in the hands of the parents. This app can essentially turn a “smart phone” into a “dumb phone” with one click. This is great if your child is grounded from the internet, but you still want him to have the ability to call or text you from his phone.
Make sure you are aware of some of the most dangerous apps and websites that young children and tweens use. Facebook, twitter, and instagram should be monitored constantly by parents. But, Have you heard of these?
1. Ask.fm : This awful app lets kids ask and answer questions anonymously. This app has been noted and mentioned in a few recent suicides. It is an open invitation to be a bully and get away with it. Stay away!
2. KiK Messenger : This is a private messenger app that their parents can’t see. There isn’t much a parent can do to verify the identity of someone on KiK, this poses a risk that a sexual predator may be chatting with your child. It also seems that adults use it as a bit of a hook up site. Scary!
3. Yik Yak : Is known as ‘the anonymous social wall for anything and everything’. Many kids are using this to post anonymous attacks and participate in bully behavior. For more information on bullying and the effects of cyberbullying please take a few minutes to visit Kirk Smalley at his website Stand for the Silent. Mr. Smalley came to our high school two years ago and made a huge impression on the students at our school. His story is moving and he is truly inspirational. His message is so powerful that it changed the bullying behavior at our school.
4. Whisper : Is an awful app for children. It lets users set up anonymous accounts to make their messages or confessions overlap a picture. Other users can then “like” or comment on. It is full of abusive and sexual content. The app also show the users location. SCARY!
5. SnapChat: This is a popular and sometimes fun app for kids when used correctly. It allows users to send photos that will “self destruct” within 10 seconds. But, nobody tells young users that the people who receive these snapchats can take “screen shots”and keep pics forever. This app may give kids a false sense of security and can encourage kids to feel more comfortable “sexting” or sending naked photos.
6. Vine: Vine is Twitter’s mobile app that lets kids make and share short videos (usually 6 seconds). This app is rated for 17 and up. However, many younger teens are using it. Kids can search and easily find a number of illegal and x-rated activities here. Vine videos can be hysterically funny and harmless to totally innapropriate.
7. Omegle : This is a video chat app where you do not have to give your identity and you are encouraged to chat between “YOU” and “A STRANGER” This is another anonymous app. However, there is a way to connect the Omegle app to your Facebook. When connected to facebook personal information such as home, school, location, friends and other personal identifying information can be obtained. The risk this app poses to children is huge, especially when linked to facebook. Sexual predators can stalk your child’s personal information here and use it to lure them into conversation and possible contact.
8. Poof : This is a really sneaky and dangerous app that lets kids hide their online activity. It actually can hide all apps on your child’s phone with one touch. It is a tricky way for your child to hide their true online activity from you.
9. ooVoo: is a free video, voice, and messaging app. Users can have group chats with up to 12 people for free – This is not a safe chat room. Stay away!
10.Tumblr: is unique in that you can find truly wonderful content. However, there is a dark, disturbing and illegal side. It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users create and follow blogs that can be seen by anyone online ( If the user makes the blog public). Many teens have blogs for personal use: sharing photos, videos, music and really anything they find interesting. Unfortunately, with one simple word search, a teen can discover a world of disturbing content and bad ideas. The variety on this site is overwhelming and unregulated. Users can create “wish lists” for followers to actually send gifts from followers. It is very typical for your child to have followers that they do not know. Imagine a strange man sending your daughter a gift from her “wish list”!
Sexual Abuse Prevention Starts At Home
As the very important month of sexual abuse awareness is quickly approaching, it is time to take a look at how we as parents can personally educate ourselves on the topic of sexual abuse prevention. I am the author of “I Said NO!” a kid-to-kid guide to keeping your private parts private. I wrote this very important book with the help of my son. There are many great books out there on this topic and I encourage you to do your own research and read as many of them as you can with your children. Reading books to your children is an important start and one of the tools parents can incorporate in this toolbox. However, as parents we can do so much more in regards to prevention. If we simply read books to our children we leave out a huge piece of prevention. As adults, we are ultimately responsible for keeping our kids safe.
My son’s experience and story, as well as many other stories are shared in in a kid-friendly manner. This book, and the stories in it, were gathered through the years during my experiences as a child, student, camp counselor, teacher, mom, and sexual abuse prevention facilitator. The motivation for writing our story came after a scary sleepover. My two children slept over a neighbors house when they were 5 and 7 years old. These were good friends of ours and we had known them for years. This was before the time of cell phones and unfortunately during some health complications of our newborn. We were a Navy family at the time. Our family lived relatively far away from our support system. We learned to make friends quickly and depend on the kindness of neighbors and friends.
During this sleepover my son experienced an event with his friend. This little boy was about one year older than my son. They had played together many times and enjoyed riding bikes, going to the playground, and playing catch. The friend asked my son to do things that were more than “normal kid curiosity”. The boy used manipulation techniques that scared my son. He said things like, “If you don’t do what I am asking you to do, I won’t be your friend anymore. He also tried bribery techniques like, “If you do what I am asking you to… I will give you $50.00 Bucks! My son knew that this was a bad situation so he took action. He went down the hall to tell his sister what was going on. She was at the sleepover too. My children read the book, “Your Body Belongs To You” by Cornelia Spelman. My kids had a very solid awareness of what was safe in regards to their bodies. My son tried to tell the mom in the house about what was going on. It was late and she just yelled at the kids and told them to all go to sleep. My son tried a few things to get out of the situation. He ended up telling the mom that he felt sick and he slept in the bathroom to get remove himself from the situation.
This wasn’t an ideal solution. But, he was creative enough to get himself out of a situation that he knew did not feel right. He listened to his instincts. In the morning when I picked my two children up, I knew something was wrong right away. My son shared with me the events of the night and how he was scared. I felt horrible and did not know what to do. I was angry that my friend let this happen in her house. I blamed myself!
After researching the topic of sexual abuse prevention I stumbled upon a wonderful organization called Darkness2Light.org. This website is full of really important and powerful information, resources and videos. Every parent or adult that cares for children in any way should read this information and take the Stewards of Children training. If I had spent more time education myself on the facts, I might have been more successful at keeping my children safe. I highly encourage you to take the Stewards of Light Training and become a facilitator. If you live in the Virginia Beach area, please feel free to contact me. I am very happy to come to your school, church, or youth organization and do the training for you. Please take a minute to visit me at www.kimberlykingbooks.com for more information on this difficult topic.
Below is information from the Darkness2Light website:
5 Steps to Protecting Our Children
Realities, Not Trust, Should Influence Your Decisions Regarding Children
It is highly likely that you know a child who has been or is being abused.
- Experts estimate that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.3 This means that in any classroom or neighborhood full of children, there are children who are silently bearing the burden of sexual abuse.
- Youth are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than adults.28, 29
- About 35% of victims are 11 years old or younger.29, 30
- 9% of 10 to 17-year-olds receive a sexual request while on the Internet.32
- 30% of children are abused by family members.29, 33
- As many as 60% are abused by people the family trusts.29, 33
- Nearly 40% are abused by older or larger children.29
- Over 90% of children who are commercially sexually exploited have a history of child sexual abuse.26
- About 75% of child pornography victims are living at home when they are photographed. Parents are often responsible.26
Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or who “tell” and are not believed are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems, often lasting into adulthood. It is also likely that you know an abuser. The greatest risk to children doesn’t come from strangers but from friends and family.
People who abuse children look and act just like every one else. In fact, they often go out of their way to appear trustworthy, seeking out settings where they can gain easy access to children, such as sports leagues, faith centers, clubs, and schools.
Yet, in more than 90% of sexual abuse cases, the child and the child’s family know and trust the abuser.29, 33
Parental separation or divorce can be traumatic for children, even when it’s the most reasonable solution. And navigating the waters can be just as difficult for the adults involved. Add holiday obligations, expectations and a newly defined “togetherness” (or lack thereof) to the picture, and the ordinary stress resulting from divorce can quickly swell to levels that provoke anxiety and overwhelm for all.
This is especially true for the kids as they’re often more affected and conflicted by such things as changes in routines and feelings of split loyalty and unwarranted guilt, yet not as equipped to handle them as one would hope the adults are. Their feelings of loss can be heightened at the holidays amid the contrasting projection of others’ excitement and expectations. For some children, this brew of emotional strife and external tension can evoke feelings of depression, physical ailment and/or the desire to avoid holiday festivities altogether.
No good parent wants to impart stress, anxiety and ill will in the hearts and minds of the children, especially during the holiday season, which we expect to be a time of reunion, celebration, forgiveness, hope and good will. But often the adults are still reeling from the newness or ongoing effects of a divorce or separation. They may be so busy tending to holiday-related tasks and events that they miss the signals that a child is suffering in silence and don’t recognize the many opportunities they have to ameliorate stress-provoking situations and facilitate a sense of calm, predictability and even joy by way of some simple forethought and planning.
Sometimes the most precious gift an adult can give a child for the holidays is a sense of emotional support and stability and the fond memories that spring from the fun, formative moments that such an environment encourages.
Tips for the holidays for newly separated or divorced families
1. Put down the anger and discontent for the holidays.
2. Thanksgiving: Try to preserve existing family traditions in spirit and be flexible and creative in holiday planning. If your custody agreement is somewhat flexible and you’re making an effort to cooperate with your ex-spouse to put the needs of the children first, consider doing two Thanksgivings. For the non-custodial parent, plan to celebrate a week early. The holiday is about being thankful and enjoying family time, after all. You can still celebrate this together, over a wonderful turkey (or alternative) dinner, regardless of the calendar date. On Thanksgiving day, the custodial parent should facilitate a phone call to the other parent. Don’t assume the kids will remember to call on their own; more often than not, they won’t! Kids tend to forget about the other parent when they’re wrapped up in holiday travel and catching up with cousins. There’s nothing worse for the non-present parent than feeling forgotten on a special day, and the unnecessary guilt the kids might feel if they did forget can easily be prevented. The custodial parent should take photos of the kids and text or email them to the non-present parent.
3. Christmas, Hanukkah and winter holidays: These can be difficult holidays to divide, but maintaining some form of a tradition that will continue year after year can provide a sense of stability for children. Perhaps an annual plan such as this: The kids spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Dad and Christmas day, dinner and New Year’s Eve with Mom. Kids crave tradition.
4. Both parents need to demonstrate holiday spirit by helping kids make or buy small gifts for the other parent. It’s important for the parents to model such thoughtfulness; kids feel guilty if they have nothing to share or give to a parent. Good, simple ideas include:
Kids’ artwork or poetry: Take a day to have each child draw, paint or write something special for Mom or Dad and add simple frames.
Paint a piece of pottery for Mom or Dad. Coffee cups are great.
Make a free Shutterfly.com family website.
Remember that it’s the thought that counts!
5. Consider a tradition of joint gift-giving (gifts from both “Mom and Dad”). This comes in handy for big-ticket wish-list items. Parents can share the expense; everybody wins!
6. If you attempt a holiday together, be careful. Especially if the split is recent, heed the following:
Understand that emotions are still raw and kids are still adjusting to this huge life change.
Avoid alcohol, which can fuel hostile or depressive feelings.
Don’t discuss difficult issues or topics with your ex, either in private or in front of the kids.
Agree to keep all discussions within a “non-confrontational sphere” to avoid arguments or disputes.
Be aware that sharing the holiday during a separation or divorce can add to the confusion and might lead kids down a path of false hopes about parents reuniting.
7. School party safe zone: Attend school functions and show your child support together. Married or not, it is always nice to have Mom and Dad at a school party. Both Mom and Dad can bring a baked good, and everyone can have fun.
8. Avoid speaking in a negative tone or manner about your ex. Especially during the holidays, avoid all conversations about your ex unless they are kind. Try to get in the holiday spirit by practicing some forgiveness and good will.
9. Show compassion. There’s usually one parent who is not handling the divorce well. Kids may consider that parent the injured party. There is nothing wrong with showing your ex compassion and forgiveness during the holidays or any other time throughout the year. If you can’t be married, at least you can be kind to one another.
10. Always avoid “parentification,” especially during the holidays. Parentification is a form of role reversal, in which a child is inappropriately given the role of meeting the emotional needs of the parent. Don’t confide in your child about the divorce or other life stressors as if they were a friend or other adult. Don’t share with your child that you are depressed because Mommy left you. You have to put on a strong front and protect your children at all costs from any additional stress. Going through a divorce is hard. Get a good therapist or talk to a good friend. Children should never be put in the middle of adult business and emotions.
11. Don’t discuss financial issues with children. “I couldn’t buy you that surf board this year, son, because I have to pay Mom alimony and I’m totally broke.” Kids should not be privy to what a parent pays for child support, alimony or gifts. Such comments are a lame attempt at trying to make a child pick a side. This is called parent alienation.
12. Never participate in parent alienation! This is a group of behaviors that are damaging to children’s mental and emotional well-being and can interfere with a child/parent relationship. It is also considered a form of child abuse in most states. These behaviors, whether verbal or non-verbal, cause a child to be mentally manipulated or to believe that a loving parent is the cause of all his or her problems. The following rules apply to all parents, stepparents and extended family:
Never speak an ill word about the other parent.
Don’t speak to your lawyer on the phone in within earshot of your children.
Don’t share with your child any of the details of your divorce. Even if you’ve been hurt, cheated on, lied to, abandoned, etc. Don’t risk the chance that your child will develop ill will toward the other parent because of you. Kids need to be able to love both parents. Participating in this type of behavior can place the kids in the middle. It can cause a hatred of the other parent and ruin the potential for relationship growth and improvement.
Keep your divorce and any negative comments from a new spouse about your ex-spouse off your social-media pages. Kids can see way more than you suspect. Be the adults, not the children.
When Your Parents Divorce is available at: When Your Parents Divorce
- I had a wonderful time at the Authorfest this weekend. The event was held in a small conference room off the Central Library in Virginia Beach. There were a few local library folks who wandered in and out of the room. I was lucky to sell a few books. But, the value of this day was found in meeting some of my fellow authors and networking. One of the speakers for the day presented a top 10 list for new authors on finding success. The number one on the list was, “Writers got to write”. These four words of encouragement helped me dust off the pen and get back to writing. I started with a HARO query request this morning. HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out. It is a daily request for sources in the form of a query letter. The topic “Travel Tips during the holidays for families with kids” came across my radar.
This made me reminisce about my many family holiday car trips with my kids from Virginia to Vermont. We take an annual journey to Stratton Mountain for a family ski trip. This is one of the few traditions my kids and I have been able to keep. Following a divorce, our traditions, schedules and flexibility have changed. I decided to write down a top ten tips for traveling with kids. The article was seeking advice on items or products to bring in the car.
If you have had the misfortune of traveling with three kids in a car for 10 hours through holiday traffic… you may already know some of these tips. Haha:)
TOP TEN ITEMS TO BRING IN YOUR CAR FOR A 10 HOUR ROAD TRIP DURING THE HOLIDAYS
- Germ Killer: An ample supply of hand sanitizer and wipes will absolutely be your smartest purchase. With three kids and various bladder requirements, we stop at almost every rest stop from Virginia to Vermont. The germs are epic!
- BIG ZIPLOC BAGS: I mean the kind of bags you store your winter clothes in! These bags come in handy in the event you have forgotten your germ killer, or it just didn’t work. These low profile, easy to store bags are great. I tuck one Ziploc behind each seat. The modern day barf bag. There is nothing worse that a massive holiday stomach bug in the back of your new Volvo. The Ziploc seals the mess in and gets the smell out, until you can toss it at the next rest stop trashcan.
- Books- one good book per person. Yes, kids still can read in cars.
- Sketch pad and colored pencils- To doodle, write, and play tic- tac- toe. Sure there are apps for that! But, it is fun to go old school once in a while.
- A kindle loaded with books, games or even a movie because it is all about balance, headphones, and keeping those wild kids quiet and entertained.
- Earplugs- for mom or anybody that wants to sleep or find a moment of peace.
- Benadryl- I am not ashamed to say that my kids may be allergic to long car rides. Be careful! Benadryl does work for kids with allergies and it may make them sleepy. (Like for three hours! YES!) Next thing you know he needs number 8.
- Pillows and Blankets-because after two hours your sister will be sick of your head bobbling towards her. After three hours you will be tired of activities 1-5. And, your mom may have slipped you a number 7 for your allergies.
- Healthy snacks- that are not too messy for the car. Leave the Doritos and Cheetos at home. There is nothing worse than yellow cheese mess all over your organized, road trip ready car. Stick with apples, craisins, and some homemade sandwiches. Drink water! Staying hydrated helps you stay healthy. But, don’t drink too much because you will find yourself at that beloved rest stop off the New Jersey Turnpike, AGAIN!
- WAZE APP loaded on your IPod. This is the coolest navigational app ever. It is only to be used by your co-pilot! We don’t need one more distracted driver on the road. Your co-pilot can plot your trip, message other WAZE drivers, keep track of caravan drivers in your travel party, avoid traffic life, and get alerts on real time accidents, hazards and road debris, police in the area, and help you find rest stops… which brings you back to number 1 on our list. It is a fun little travel app that can keep a 10 year old busy and help you pass the time.
The trick is to stagger everything so that the kids don’t get bored!
Keep your kids up late the night before your trip. Wake them up at 5 am. This strategy will help them sleep off a good third of the trip. The goal is to keep everyone happy, healthy and safe. I hope you are able to laugh at your mishaps and adventures along the way. Happy Holidays!
Details for Authorfest 2015
Sure, Octoberfest can be fun! I had a wonderful afternoon with the NOBLEMEN of Virginia Beach. Who can say no to german music, festive costumes, german folk songs, pretzels, beer, and friends. For a change of pace, come and join me and many other local authors at a fun, free and fabulous event on November 14th here in Virginia Beach. Authorfest 2015 will be held at the Virginia Beach Central Public Library on November 14th from 10:00am to 4:00pm. I will be there with my books and some giveaways:)
There won’t be any beer or music. But, you will meet some very interesting people and spark your creative side.
“If a story is in you, it has to come out” ~ William Faulkner