From the minute you hold you baby, the Momma bear in you comes alive. Talking about child predators is not a warm and fuzzy conversation, but it’s absolutely necessary to know the grooming tactics and little ways a predator will try to befriend you and your child. Do you know the intricate work a child predator does to worm their way into your home and spending alone time with your child? Do you know red flags of your child being groomed? Please, read this information and stay involved and attentive to those in your child’s life.
As a parent, one of your strongest instincts is to keep your child safe – from harm, from abuse, from being preyed upon. Predators – do you know what to look for if someone is “grooming” your child?
Predators are hidden in plain sight – they can be an older sibling, family member, relative, colleague or friend. In fact, 90% of the time a predator is someone with a relationship to the victim and the family.
You may be thinking… that won’t happen to my child, that can’t happen to our family. But it can. The best thing you do is to be prepared to spot the red flags BEFORE something happens.
Statistics are frightening – 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 8 boys are molested during childhood.
I can personally think of five friends off the top of my head that I know were molested – four of which, the abuse was perpetrated by a family member.
Child Molesters are very cunning in their deception – they have to be in order to get away with these despicable acts. Children – innocent, naïve and trusting – are the most susceptible to the deliberate tricks and ploys a predator uses to gain their trust, as well as the family’s trust.
Pedophiles are notoriously friendly, engaging, nice and likable.
On the outside, they have a great looking life and are well-liked by others. They strategically target their victims, often installing themselves into a child’s life through family, school, church, sports, and activities.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
- They spend excessive time at your home and with you and your family. This includes a sibling, relatives, family friends, neighbors, colleagues, cousins, a coach or teacher who have taken a special interest in one particular child.
- They will work very hard to arrange for alone with your child – they are not doing you a favor or helping out of the goodness of their heart. Alone time is a seized opportunity.
WHAT DOES A PREDATOR LOOK FOR
- Vulnerability. A child that may be in need of extra attention, affection or who may be more of a loner and in need of friendship or guidance. This child may lack confidence or seem shy.
- Opportunities. Watch your surroundings and gatherings. Normal adults with chit chat with children for a few minutes and then turn their attention to adult conversations but if a grown-up prefers to spend time with the kids playing – this is a red flag.
A PREDATOR IN ACTION
- What do kids love more than toys and gifts? A predator is an expert at finding the soft spot of a child because they work especially hard to relate to kids and speak their language. If someone is gifting items to your child that you may not be able to afford, seems excessive, gives an adult an opportunity to spend more time with your child – this is a major warning sign.
- A predator will prep your child – they’ll test the waters to make sure your child can keep secrets.
MORE RED FLAGS TO BE AWARE OF
- Spends most of his/her spare time with children and has little interest in spending time with people his/her own age?;
- Repeatedly ignores social, emotional and/or physical boundaries and limits;
- Singles out a child, lavishes them with extra attention, affections, gifts and develops an age-inappropriate relationship;
- Pushes and regularly suggests “alone” time with your child;
- Pushes physical boundaries with a child including hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling or holding a child even when the child resists physical contact or attention;
- Shares inappropriate, adult-geared personal or private information with your child;
- Points out sexual images or tells inappropriate or suggestive stories in front of children;
- Appears “too good to be true” and is frequently swooping in to babysit your children for free, help out often, takes your children for overnight outings, take your children on special outings alone, buying them gifts for no apparent reason – especially a person who does not have children of their own
- Frequently walks in on children/teens in the bathroom
THE BEST WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN
- No Secrets. We have a strict rule in our house – no secrets, ever. Not even for games or between one parent and child. If secrets are ever ok, the line has been blurred and a child will continue to keep secrets between another adult and themselves. A predator will test this out to see how “safe” a child is to their game plan.
- Open Communication. Talk to your children about inappropriate behavior, inappropriate touching, sexual abuse, physical limits, not keeping secrets and how to use their voice. Make sure each family member knows what healthy sexual development in children is and what might be of concern. Teach children the proper names for body parts and what to do if someone tries to touch them in a sexual way. Make sure young children know that no one has the right to touch their private parts (unless for medical reasons) and that they should not touch anyone else’s private parts.
- Be a Visible Parent. How involved are you in your child’s daily life and activities? Are you present or are you skirting your parenting duties and letting another do you favors and help out with your child’s schedule and activities – especially if it involves a lot of alone time with another person. This is a major deterrent for a child molester because the more visible and present the parent is in the child’s life, the harder the target becomes.
- Set Clear Visible Boundaries for Your Family. Set clear family guidelines for personal privacy and behavior and discuss them with all members of your family and model respecting guidelines. Discuss these guidelines with any other adults who spend time around or supervise the children. (e.g., if a child does not want to hug or kiss someone hello or goodbye, then he or she can shake hands instead.)
- Let Your Child Set Boundaries of Their Own. Let children know that if they are not comfortable being around a particular adult or older child, then you or another adult will let that person know this. (e.g., tell him or her that you don’t want your child to sit on his/her lap.) As a child matures, boundaries may need to change (e.g., knock on the door before entering the room of an adolescent.)
- Trust Your Gut. The people closest to you should be the people that you can trust the most. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case but being a smart and present parent, you’ll notice the red flags that are present with someone is “grooming” a child for their own disgusting purposes. If you have any red flags – if your gut is telling you someone is not right – do not allow any one-on-one time with that individual and your child.
CREATE A SAFETY PLAN
- Learn as much as you can: Learn about the warning signs and what to look for in adults, teenagers, and children.
- Open communication: Talk about child sexual abuse with those you are close with.
- Set clear family boundaries: Teach all members of the family to respect privacy in dressing, bathing, sleeping and other personal activities.
- Take responsibility: Speak up when you see something that doesn’t seem right to you. Interrupt behaviors and talk with the adult, child or teenager in the situation about what makes you uncomfortable.
- Get other safe adults involved: Be sure that no one in your family feels alone.
- Stay involved: Become a resource person for an adult, child or teen – there may be no more important gift you can give those you love.
It’s a parent’s job to be alert of certain behaviors in those who interact with your kids.
If you notice red flags and your gut is screaming that something isn’t right, limit interactions between that individual and your child BEFORE anything damaging can happen. If you can, distance yourself from that individual or sever the relationship.
Another important read Safety Rules to Teach Your Children which talks about strangers, body safety and other safety rules you can teach your children.
Reach out to a professional for help if you notice red flags. Confronting the person who is raising these red flags will be difficult and needs to be handled the right way.
RESOURCES FOR HELP
- Drowning is Quick & Silent. Know the 5 Signs of Drowning
- Don’t Miss These Signs of Physical, Sexual and Emotional Abuse
- What Happened to Our Daughter and Why We Created a Safe Word
- 10 Prevention Tips for Parents
- One Powerful Tip Will Transform Your Parenting
- How to Create a Positive Home (And Why this Will Affect Your Kids Forever
- 9 Proven Ways to Boost a Child’s Confidence