What are your safety rules? Wear helmets, don’t stick your finger in an outlet, buckle up, look both ways before crossing the street, . . . things like that?
If you only read one parenting book this summer, read Off Limits, A Parents Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse by Sandy K. Wurtele, Ph.D. and Feather Berkower, M.S.W. and you’ll realize that you, like me, missed the most important rules of all — body safety rules.
I met Berkower at a neighbor’s house six years ago. She gave an all day “Parenting Safe Children” workshop for a group of couples. Honestly, I dreaded the workshop. I mean, what is more scary and awful than talking about sex, rape, abuse, and incest? (Nothing I can think of.)
But, the amazing thing was how much the class helped me NOT to be scared. Berkower’s goal, which is the same in her book, is that parents know enough to make their children safe from predators.
Why? Because one in three girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused by age 18. And if you think that’s frightening, consider this –those are just the cases that are reported!
Berkower asked my parent friends and me to brainstorm our safety rules, like I asked you earlier. So, we wrote an extensive list.
She stared at us, silent.
“Why don’t you have any rules about body safety?” she asked with intensity.
Berkower was and is adament. Parents must teach Body-Safety Rules throughout a child’s life. Weekly, daily. Not just once. Rules such as:
- No one is allowed to touch your private parts.
- If someone tries to touch your private parts, say NO!
- and more.
And she gives parents Off-Limits Rules, too such as:
- You have a right to choose how you demonstrate affection. (in other words, no mandatory hugs or kisses.)
- You are the boss of your body. “Children who understand that their bodies belong to them and that no one else has the right to touch or look at their private parts are children who will be less vulnerable to sexual abuse.”
- and more.
Another point that Berkower makes and differs from others is this — (and I agree from personal experience) is this: Don’t wait for your child to start the conversation. “Your child may never ask, but he or she still needs to know. It’s a parent’s resonsibiltiy to introduce the topic, little by little, and to do it frequently,” Berkower writes in the Off Limits book.
I bought this book and read it quickly – it’s a well-written and easy to read. More importantly, it’s full of essential parenting information to keep your child safe from predators. I don’t want to give away one copy. I want you all to own it for yourselves. Go to Parenting Safe Children and buy Off Limits.