Monday, September 07, 2009

How to talk to your kids about a touchy subject

How to talk to your kids about a touchy subject
Jewish Star - September 7, 2009
By Mayer Fertig 

Beyond the new clothing, a knapsack and school supplies they buy for their young students, moms and dads need to consider if their children are equipped with the information they’ll need to protect themselves from an adult, or even another child, who seeks to betray their trust. “Parents need to teach their children about good touch and bad touch,” said psychologist Michael Salamon of ADC Psychological Services in Hewlett. “Use themselves and their medical doctors as an example,” he suggested, “how the doctor will never examine them without Mommy or Daddy in the room, and anyone who wants to touch them, unless Mommy or Daddy says it’s okay, they should stay away and tell Mommy and Daddy about it.” Second grade is the latest age to have that conversation, Salamon said, and it should be repeated “at every age”; another therapist suggested children first receive age-appropriate warnings about abuse when they are as young as four years old. Context is important, stressed Dr. Asher Lipner, vice president of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, and a therapist in private practice. “Don’t make it out of the blue — ‘Everything’s fine in life, nobody’s going to hurt you but watch out for sexual abuse.’ “You have to teach your kids about their rights,” he urged, “that they have the right to expect that nobody will hurt them physically, or emotionally or even spiritually.” Children should be told, “If a kid or an adult tries to get you to do something you don’t want to do, you have the right to say no if it is something which is invading your privacy, such as touching you in your private place or touching them in their private place,” Lipner explained. A patient who suffered abuse as a child “focused her chinuch so much on this, and in a positive way,” Lipner said, “that your body is special and a gift from Hashem; that your private places are especially yours, and that nobody is even allowed to look.” A child’s vulnerability to predators is dependent to a great extent on the manner in which he or she is treated by their parents, said Lipner. He recalled an incident in which a six-year-old girl scared off a would-be abuser by saying, “That’s stupid and I’m calling the police.” “If parents are overly dictatorial, if parents are neglectful, if parents rationalize that kids don’t have the same needs as adults for autonomy, for being heard, then the kids are going to believe that people have the right to tell them what to do,” Lipner said. They may believe “that adults have more rights than them, and therefore if an adult wants to touch them…” “Parents have to treat their kids with a respect that doesn’t always come naturally,” he added, “because we all have the potential to selfishly put our needs before the needs of people who are more vulnerable — and children especially — because we mistakenly think that their emotional needs are not as strong or as important as those of adults.”

Please note:  Dr. Michael J. Salamon is on the executive board of directors of The Awareness Center

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