Two weeks ago, a post came up in my reader that caught my attention. Scary Mommy had a guest post about a situation involving a six year old being asked by an older boy to touch his privates. This post scared me. It scared me enough that I posted it on Facebook. It opened up a great dialogue about this and about how young it seems like we have to talk about these things with our kids.
I’d like to state up front that I really feel like, thankfully, I grew up in a bubble. I didn’t know that things like this happened to people. The older I got, the more I realized that there were people in the world who did things like this. And now, working daily on Band Back Together, I realize how fortunate I am that sexual abuse has never touched my life — as a child or as an adult.
Just the night before this post was put up, Jason had to go through the Cub Scout Handbook with Henry. In the front is a section of topics to discuss with your son to help them learn what to do in situations such as the following:
- What if you are playing on the playground and an adult comes up to you and asks you to help find his or her lost puppy? What do you do?
- What if you are in a public restroom and someone tries to touch your private parts? What do you do?
- What if you are playing at a friend’s house and his older brother and some of his friends invite you to join a club? To join the club you have to take off all your clothes and wrestle with them. Your friend wants to join. What do you do?
I was panicky because OMG my baby shouldn’t have to know about these things — there shouldn’t be people who do this in the world. It’s just not right.
But that’s not the case. There are bad people in the world and all we can do as parents is teach our kids right and wrong and empower them to know the difference and stand up for themselves.
The timing of the introduction by my friend Amy to the author of Fred The Fox Shouts “NO!” was perfect.
Tatiana K. Matthews is the author of the wonderful book Fred The Fox Shouts “NO!” and as it turns out, she lives right around the corner from me in Dunwoody, as does the very talented illustrator of the book, Allison Fears. Tatiana dropped off a book for me the other day to read to Henry. All I can say is that HE LOVED IT!
After the initial embarrassed-boy, sheepish look when talking about “privates,” he warmed up to it. Probably because the book is simple, to the point and the best part? You get to SCREAM!
Every time Fred The Fox’s parent asks a question, Fred answers and then YOU have to answer out loud. BY SCREAMING! It’s so much fun to read and gets the sillies out before bed.
The message is simple and to the point. The book is repetitive which is ideal for children of this age. Reading the book often is how the message and lessons will resonate the best with them.
I asked Tatiana to answer some questions for me to give you a better insight into why she decided to write a book like this and a little more about how and when to talk to your children about these sensitive subjects.
What was your reason behind writing this book? And why a family of foxes?
The book was inspired by my own experience as a mental professional. Time and time again I saw clients who had been victims of sexual abuse at the hands of family, friends and acquaintances. However, the focus of many resources are not heavily centered on safety with people you know and trust.
I chose the family of foxes because I knew that the story could not be threatening. We would have to use animals to soften the edges of this very serious subject. I knew that a child like, but soft and fuzzy character would do the trick. I also wanted the animal to have a den to represent the importance of family and the culture of the home.
How early should we be talking to our children about sexual abuse? What ages do you recommend Fred The Fox Shouts “NO” for?
Sexual abuse prevention starts at birth. Identifying a child’s private areas by their anatomically correct names sets the stage. Teaching a child that allows you to remind them that those areas are private. Having that conversation while you are changing diapers and modeling behavior that reflects you respect your child’s right to privacy and personal boundaries.
Fred the Fox is appropriate for any child that can sit for a story up to at least age 10.
If I talk to my child about this, he will want to know about sex and I’m not ready for my 6 year old to know all that. How do I put off the sex talk until he’s older?
Introducing the concepts of privacy, personal rights and the power of ones voice, does not mean you will end up talking about sex. If a child has a question about sex that is generated from this conversation, answer the question in a concise manner. Never answer more than what is asked. Too many words can cause you to lose the message.
If a child asks a question that would leave you to believe they have more knowledge of sex than developmentally appropriate, you will need to gently investigate how they gathered that knowledge. That advanced knowledge can be a red flag that a child had been sexually abused.
Is the problem of sexual abuse of children getting better? Or is it worse than ever?
There are conflicting studies regarding the rise or decline of child sexual abuse. Some studies say acts of sexual abuse are on the decline, but sexual abuse involving technology are on the rise.
Do you have plans for other books about other tough-to-talk-about subjects?
We do not currently have plans for another book at this time, but we have some very exciting ideas in hopes that we will reduce the occurrences of sexual abuse.
Fred The Fox Shouts “NO!” was featured in the AJC last week. The story opened with the most frightening statistics:
- One in four girls and one in six boys nationally will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, according to the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy.
- Of those, less than 10 percent will ever tell, even though they know their offender 90 percent of the time.
Congratulations to Law Momma for winning the copy of Fred The Fox Shouts “NO!” I’ll be shooting you an email!
Anyone who wants to buy a copy can get one here!