M.S., LMHC, IADC, CAMS I
“The richest and fullest lives attempt to achieve an inner balance between three realms: work, love, and play.” ~Erik Erikson
Balance. It’s a word we hear often. It’s an idea or a concept that we strive for daily; consistently and relentlessly trying to achieve that magical level that keeps us in mental stability. We try to find a working balance between our jobs, our families, and our need to relax and enjoy our lives. And often times, we find that our lives are out of balance because life is a constant moving object, constant waves hitting the beach and then receding back again. Life does not stay stagnant or frozen in time, it is forever moving. So how do we maintain balance in a life that is ever changing?
We adapt. We learn, we grow, we change with the changing tide. We decide what is important to us and we focus our attention to make that matter. We learn to put our emotional needs ahead of working impossible hours to get the next promotion, or put our children’s needs ahead of our desire to skydive off a cliff. We seek to understand ourselves better, to find a sense of self that is strong, so that we can head off a crashing tumble in the ocean of our lives, to keep riding the wave of change as it comes in again.
As a therapist, I have struggled with finding a sense of balance that is harmonized with what I do. I learned early in my career that I could not live for just my career, that I needed to have more focus in other areas of my life as well. I, on occasion, must be willing to put my needs ahead of my work, to focus on being a partner, a friend, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a living breathing human being. This is not an easy emotional feat when your career is based on helping others find their path and themselves. It feels selfish and as if I’m letting others down. But it is essential to maintain my internal harmony.
It is hard to find that perfect balance between work, love, and play. And when you do find it, it changes almost as quickly as it came to be. Perhaps the concept of “balance” isn’t something you “find”, but rather something you simply “are”. I am a balanced person today.
Contributed by Renae Jones MS, LMHC
The Power of Validation
Have you ever felt understood? As in someone really understands you – they get you – and
they get it! It’s one of the best feelings to experience.
In my own parenting journey I have had the experience of watching my child, who I love more
than words can say, have a major melt down and present behaviors that are more than words
can describe! My reaction – Stop – Stop – Stop! I quickly think to myself I HAVE to make them
STOP. They get escalated and I get escalated. This is great. Now the both of us are flying off the
handle. Didn’t I just mention I love this child more than words can say? So why am I losing it?
Why am I raising my voice – ok – admit it – yelling? And I have to ask myself – don’t you think if
he/she could stop he/she would stop? This is likely about as much fun for them as it is for you
right now – how are you feeling?
Yes – go with that - how are you feeling? Horrible, my heart is racing, my face is red, my voice is
raised (OK - I’m yelling), perhaps I’ve even pounded my fist on the table or kicked the couch. I
feel awful and it gets even worse when I consider that I’m doing this in response to my four
year old child. Nice – I hope this picture goes into their short term memory with a caption “OK,
not Mom’s finest hour but I love her just the same.” So that’s how you’re feeling. Now, more
importantly and very key in breaking this cycle – how are they feeling?
Now go with that – how are they feeling? Well, from the looks of things they are not feeling well at all. Laying on the floor screaming and thrashing about is not the international sign of “I’m having a great day”. So they’re feeling – what – did they say? Did anything come out in which they identified a feeling, any “I hate you”, “I can’t stand this”, “I hate school”, “I’m scared” – anything. Because if anything did you have the start of your validation and perhaps the start of de-escalating this child who you really do love more than words can say. If they identified a feeling, you can validate it simply by repeating what they just said.
They say, “I’m scared.” Your response, “You’re scared.” Yep, it’s that easy.
They say, “I’m mad.” Your response, “You’re mad.” See - easy.
They say, “I hate you.” – Your response, “You hate me.” OK, that one’s not so easy. However,
the thing to remember is you are validating a feeling they are having right in that time they’re
having it. So try to keep in mind this is what they’re feeling right now, not forever. And truly, although hearing this is not easy, there’s a big difference between saying and doing. It is, after all, our actions and behaviors that get us in trouble and not our feelings. And if a child can express a feeling safely and be heard they are less likely to act on feelings that are bottled up and eating away at them later on in life. So hear them, and more so, understand them. That’s the power of validation of feeling.
So what about the child who lays on the floor screaming and thrashing about with no
identifiable words coming out. They don’t or can’t (pre-verbal) give you any words to describe
what they’re feeling. Well, again, look at the presentation and give a guess. “It looks like you’re
mad.” “You seem frustrated.” “You’re sad – am I right?”
This may seem patronizing or condescending to some people but it’s an act of enormous love to
try and understand each other. Understanding and accepting is a big part of love. It is not loving
to fix each other or stop each other, although that is usually our intent when we try to fix our kids or stop a meltdown. We want them to be the best they can be and we don’t like seeing them in pain. However, there is an implied message with fixing and stopping that can be perceived as - I’m loved – but not when I do this or I’m a great kid - if I just got rid of this part. As parents, of course we love our kids entirely and absolutely. And so we must love them through thick and thin, when they have halos over their heads and when they have horns growing out of them.
There lies the power of validation of feeling. So, when they are up there having an episode and it is EPIC – try it. They may not hear it because their brain is in survival mode at that point. Imagine the brain of a rabbit being chased by a fox – that’s where they’re at. But give it a try and when they’ve calmed down a bit, do it again. Rather than you going to that place with them and both of you losing your cool, stay calm and say something like - “It looks like you’re mad and I love you more than words can say.”
Contributed By Diana Bonus, LMHCP
It’s November. Fall is in full swing, leaves are blowing, pumpkin spice is in the air, and temperatures are becoming cooler. Fall, specifically November, is also the time when we honor the tradition of giving thanks. Many of us will gather with friends and family, roast a turkey, watch some football, and share a couple of reasons we are thankful. While all of these customs are important and meaningful, I wonder, when was the last time that you examined the meaning of giving thanks?
Giving thanks. Look at the word “giving.” Our holiday is not Thanks-having, it’s Thanks-giving. Thanks is not something you have, it’s something you give. Thanks-giving is action. It’s synonymous with the discipline of practicing gratitude. Gratitude is not an emotion, not something you feel, it’s something you do. When you flex your gratitude muscle, it might feel sore and tired, but what is that age old saying? Ah, yes, “No pain, no gain.” Flexing your gratitude muscle can be as simple as saying “thank you” to the bank teller or the grocery store clerk before they say it to you. You may even be surprised at the balance between giving thanks and the size of your gratitude muscle.
Often we find ourselves spending time looking for someone or something to blame for our circumstances. Here is a Thanks-giving challenge: instead of grumbling about your car, speak gratitude that you have transportation. Instead of looking at the mess your children have created, tell your children what you appreciate about them. Find something every day to be grateful for, and watch how sleek and toned that muscle becomes. Today I am grateful for warm chocolate chip cookies!
What are you grateful for?
Contributed by Tammera Bibbins LISW
Self - Care IS Self - Preservation
Self-care… We are beginning to hear that phrase more often. There is finally an understanding about how absolutely important self-care is for those who are in the helping profession. We, in the helping profession, spend much of our time and attention devoted to the care of others. And what about those not in the helping profession? Let’s look at our social context. We live in a capitalistic society that praises the movers and the shakers, the over achievers, and the Type A personalities. Our society emphasizes producing and doing. We have almost become a culture of Human Doings instead of Human Beings. So it’s no wonder that we continue to struggle with finding that just right balance. When we think of self-care, images of getting a massage, getting out with friends, and (at least for women) getting manicures and pedicures often come to mind. And now that we understand the importance, we are now being reminded how important it is that we take care of ourselves, manage our stress, and live as healthily as possible.
But are we really seeing the whole picture? Sure, massages and pedicures feel great to the body. Laughing and having a good time with friends is restorative, but there is a bigger picture that we often do not think about.
Self-care isn’t something you tick off your To-Do list once you’ve gone to a yoga class or had a massage. Self-care is a constant repetition of many tiny habits, which together soothe you and make sure you’re at your optimum—emotionally, physically, and mentally. We often don’t look at the emotional or mental side of self-care.
Here are some examples from each category:
These are but a few ideas and I’m sure this list could be much longer. So as we move forward in our quest for Self-Care, let’s not to forget to see the whole picture.
What is Self-Care to you? Turning off the phone, computer and television after a certain hour. Using music to soothe instead of stimulate. Just listening to the sounds around you. Playing, reading a good book and using quiet time thinking positive thoughts. Often times our stress comes from within. The part of us that is unhappy and gets caught up in Shoulding all over ourselves. If we can be quiet and experience joy in those moments on a consistent basis, our selves are preserved much better.
Domestic violence is defined as a behavior or behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control others. I have to admit that before I started working with clients who have experienced this themselves and have suffered significant trauma from being in these types of relationships, I used to think that domestic violence only included physical abuse against others. Now that I have been exposed to this from working with families in their homes and currently as a new Mental Health Clinician, I realize that Domestic Violence is much more than physical and has many different levels.
Commonly we assume that the perpetrator in domestically violent relationships is male, but the reality is that men can also be victims of domestic violence, we just rarely hear about it as they are less likely to report it is happening. Types of domestic violence can include name calling, using intimidation to get the results you want, actual threats of physical harm, sexual assault, and several others. The victims of domestic violence are not the only individuals affected by the abuse, it also affects children and any other individuals in the home or out of the home indirectly. It is so important to think about the indirect effects. Children who have been exposed to domestic violence can be affected behaviorally and emotionally. Even in infancy. Trauma effects children no matter what age. Being non verbal doesn't mean there are no effects.
Because often times a victim of Domestic Violence aligns with their abuser, they may have difficulty leaving the situation. They may feel love for the other person and be confused between the positive feelings and negative feelings they have for that person, believing that the good can overcome. They may feel no support due to the controlling factor in these relationships and isolation that occurs for many reasons. There may be children involved, and they may resist going to a shelter that is too hard to get into anyway and feel there is no other option than to stay or be financially insecure.
There are cycles to domestic violence which begin with the tension that builds right before the abusive incident, the blow up happens where immediately after the offender is calmer, realizes what has been done, may begin to blame the victim and feels sorry. Then the making-up stage begins where apologies and promises are made, then the calm begins which is where the nice things in the relationship happen that is difficult to walk away from. This is the stage I like to refer to as the honeymoon stage where the offender continues to make promises and might even go as far as buying the victim gifts, then something happens and the tension begins to build. The cycle begins again.
Some of the psychological effects domestic violence can have included guilt, shame, humiliation, anxiety, depression and withdraw. These same psychological effects are present in men and women victims of domestic violence. If you are a victim of domestic violence or if you are a provider and a client reports past or present domestic violence there are some short-term and long term interventions that can be used to help them.
Short-term interventions include making a crisis plan intervention, making a plan for safety. If you are a provider, following your agencies policy for reporting, complete a crisis intervention plan with the client, provide them with resources/psychoeducation about domestic violence, and also giving them resources on domestic violence shelters and hotlines they can utilize until they see you again. Other interventions may be planning for departure, making a plan for your children to be safe, contact the authorities and obtain a protection order to ensure safety. As a provider, it is important to attempt following up with the client in between sessions if able.
Short-term interventions can also be offered to the batterer through therapeutic interventions for them to deal with their own traumatic content that prompts them to offend. Referrals to education and emotional management programs or other appropriate interventions. This may help them develop appropriate ways to express their emotions other than doing things they probably don't want to do anyway. Along with these immediate or short-term interventions, you can also utilize EMDR interventions to process the trauma.
EMDR is a very effective way to reduce the maladaptive behaviors at the source. It helps to resolve painful experiences for the victim and the offender of domestic violence!
I feel as someone who is recently graduated from a Masters Level Mental Health program, it has is important for me to continue educating myself as a new Mental Health Clinician to make sure I continue educating myself about new interventions that can be used to process trauma so I can be effective in meeting my clients where they are in their process. A good rapport between the clinician and the client is so important for the victim to feel like they have a safe place to share their experiences. But most important it is important to take care of yourself!
Contributed by Nicole Reedy, MA
Debra Younger LMHCP
Mental Health Therapist
Good Enough Parenting
I wonder how many of us have bought the lie that infants and children prior to the age of 5 are too young to really be affected by events in their lives. That a baby or toddler is too young to understand the loss of a parent, either through death or divorce. That the ways we treat them aren’t that big a deal as long as we don’t abuse or neglect them.
The reality is, it is exactly the opposite. The interactions that an infant, toddler and young child experience, form the foundation of their sense of self-worth and value, for good or bad. Through the use of Attachment Theory is how we addresses this topic.
A simple way of understanding this, is that every human being is born with a potential to be. This potential involves our genetics, but it is shaped and developed or not developed, in response to our environment. So a child might have the potential to be a wonderful singer, but if that child is raised in a home where that gift is not appreciated, but rather belittled and put down, that child will most likely never realize their potential and actually come to believe that they can’t sing. On the other hand, if that same child is raised in a home that accepts and honors their gift, they might be like 4 year old Kaitlyn Maher, who wowed the judges on America’s Got Talent.
The important message here for all parents and parents to be, is that you are critically important and have an unbelievable impact on who and what your child will become. It is in your interactions with your child, starting at the moment of their birth, that they begin to form their very sense of self; who they are in relationship to the world. This is an awesome responsibility and a scary one at the same time. One that as a parent of two children I understand.
The good news is you don’t have to be a “perfect” parent to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. As Winnicott put it, you just have to be “good enough”. But what does it mean to be good enough?
As a psychotherapist who specializes in attachment work, and has two grown children, I wish I had known then what I know now. I can easily look back and see all the ways in which I would have done things differently, if I had only known, but I didn’t. This article is about honoring the fact that we are all doing the best we can, in the moment we are doing it, with the skills we have, until we have better skills. My hope is to point out some ways to grow new skills.
What are some ways you can gain the knowledge and skills to make you a better parent?
1. Take a parenting class. Learn about normal childhood developmental tasks and how you can support your child in accomplishing these tasks.
2. Educate yourself about attachment theory and its critical importance to your child. There are many books and resources that will help you gain the knowledge that you need, (these are just a small example):
Attachment Parenting Book by Laura Carrilton
Beyond the Sling: A Real Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving children the Attachment Parenting Way by Mayim Bialik, PhD
The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby by William and Martha Sears
3. Participate in a parenting group that supports and encourages healthy parent child attachment.
4. If you find yourself struggling to be the kind of parent you want to be, reach out for help. Many times our inability to respond in healthy ways to our children is because we have issues from our own childhood that get in the way. Find healing for yourself, so that you can offer your child the parent that you both deserve.
For those of you who have already raised your children and are thinking it is too late, don’t! It is never too late. There are many opportunities to heal in relationships with your children, with your parents and always a delight to help your children love their children! Many of you have grandchildren, and while your role is not normally as pivotal as the parent’s you still have an important role to play, and can be a wonderfully positive influence on the child! Don’t under estimate your role in your grandchildren’s lives and your continued role in your children’s lives.
We work hard at MOSAIC FAMILY Counseling Center to help heal the relationships, enhance understanding and help families in whatever need they have, from where ever they are! I encourage you to seek a little help if you find yourself in relationships that are not as rich as you would like them to be!
*MOSAIC FAMILY Counseling Center is The Center of Excellence in the healing of life's challenges.
Creating Realistic Expectations
As the new counseling intern at Mosaic Family Counseling Center I am in a constant state of transition and learning. I am spending most of my time in trainings and the orientation process, which isn’t always as clear cut as we think it is going to be. Like many people, I find myself frequently frustrated because I don’t feel confident in what I’m supposed to be doing, or even how it’s done.
As a way of managing our lives, we often set expectations for ourselves and others, but rarely do we take a minute to think about how accurate our expectations are. Instead, we get frustrated with ourselves and those around us when our expectations aren’t met, even if what we expect is unrealistic! Our expectations can be related to a variety of things, from performance and achievement, to behavior or personality. Often we create expectations based upon fantasy rather than reality. Consider the example of starting a new job; would most people like to walk in on the first day knowing everything about the company and how it operates, sufficiently impressing everyone in their path? Of course! However, the reality is that learning something new is a process that we don’t allow ourselves to appreciate because we are too busy measuring ourselves next to John-who-had-all-of-this-figured-out-by-such-and-such-day.
What if we practiced reflecting on creating realistic expectations based on who we are, where we have been and what we have to offer, and doing the same for the people in our life that we create expectations for? A quote from Ram Dass articulates this well:
“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You’re too this, or I’m too this.’ That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
What if, even just for today, we pledge to think harder about the expectations we create. Practice turning yourself and others into a tree and creating expectations based on how you or the other person “grew.” As you are considering your expectations, think of a tree that is an inch shorter than the tree next to it. Would we expect the short tree to grow an inch in one day because the tree next to it is taller? Probably not. So why do we create these types of expectations for ourselves?
For example, if I were to recreate my expectations for my first weeks at a new job, I wouldn’t expect myself to know everything by the end of week one. If I set my expectations to be consistent with my abilities (knowing that I am human and, of course, humans make mistakes) I will be able to be more confident in my development because I know it is possible to meet my own expectations. And because things are often easier with support I hope that you will join me in turning yourself and others into trees. Let’s take some time to think of how we have grown. What can we do with our abilities?
Hopefully we will all create a little more room to allow who we are, and set our expectations on what we can do instead of what we should do. Imagine how a seemingly small change can impact our daily life! I can’t wait to hear your experience with recreating your expectations, make sure to come back to comment and let us know.
~ Contributed by Kyla Loucks
Do One Thing Different
I’ve lived long enough to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with negative behavior patterns, lack of organization and perpetual procrastination.
I sadly assumed writing a simple blog post would be relatively quick and easy. To my dismay I couldn’t focus on a topic to save my life. Randomly, I picked up a book called Do One Thing Different by Bill O’Hanlon, which has been sitting on my nightstand for months. Chapter two begins with this quote:
When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount
-Dakota tribal saying
Turns out I’ve been riding a dead horse for many years. I won’t bore you with a book report, but I encourage everyone to read Do One Thing Different. Instead, I want to share a very simple example of how to execute this simple concept with the issue of procrastination. O’Hanlon offers a strategy that includes identifying the problem and then focusing on behavior patterns that essentially fuel the fire.
Problem – The feeling of being chronically overwhelmed and exhausted. Constantly feeling busy, but never feeling any sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
How does an individual “do” this problem – Staying up late at night, sleeping in as late as possible each day, taking personal phone calls throughout the day, checking social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc.) numerous times throughout the day, playing online games and watching hours of television.
The simple task of writing this out reveals a laundry list of things done daily that are completely unproductive and time consuming. In an effort to break some of these unproductive behavior patterns a person decides what they’re willing to “do differently”. This starts with literally doing just ONE thing different. It’s that simple! Here are some examples:
o waking up each morning early enough to exercise/meditate
o making an attainable checklist of things to accomplish during the day
o allow timed breaks during the day to check social media/socialize with friends
o limiting the amount of time in front of the television each night
Challenge yourself to do one thing different! My hope is that you see progress and begin to end each day feeling a little more satisfied with your efforts at mastering this thing called life.
~ Kristen Peterson LMSW
A Parent's Response to Teen Suicide
As a parent of two teenage children, my heart sinks when I hear about the events that have occurred at Urbandale Middle School in the past several days. What I want to do is snuggle on the couch, with my children on either side of me, and never let them out of my sight again. Never let them encounter pain. Never talk about doubt, fear, anger, hatred, feeling alone. As wonderful as I envision that to be, in all reality, it’s not reality. My children have encountered pain, they have struggled with doubt, anger, hatred, feeling alone, and they will again in the future.
Suicide is such a difficult topic to address with our children. It is difficult to know the right response.
Where does that leave me as their parent? Right where I need to be. As scary at it may be, it’s my job to call out the elephant in the room and open that dialogue with my children. Ask them what they think about these two events, what emotions they are experiencing. I will plan to share with them a time when I have experienced similar thoughts and emotions. I will tell them they don’t have to guard their language, emotions or beliefs. I will encourage them to share their doubts and fears. I will not judge them in our dialogue, and try very hard to resist my natural urge to solve all their problems. I will resolve to be honest with my own emotions, and then take a deep breath, and listen.
Contributed by Diana Bonus MS, LMHCP
A Necessary, Scary Thought… Child Sexual Abuse
I am a member of a team presenting information about protecting children from sexual abuse. This community education program is called Protecting Our Children – Advice from Child Molesters. Prior to being a therapist here at Mosaic Family Counseling Center, I worked as a Prevention Coordinator at the Center for Advocacy and Outreach at Blank Children’s Hospital. My prevention focus was child personal safety specifically in the areas of sexual abuse, bullying, and stranger abduction.
I realize child sexual abuse is a topic that most people would rather not think about – that’s what child molesters are counting on. By working this issue through programming at the schools I came to know a lot about it. I know how often it happens. I know the impact it has on victims. I know protecting children is the responsibility of adults. I know how to talk with a child and report the matter if a child discloses information to me. Lastly, I know – or I thought I did - how perpetrators operate. Yeah – that last one about how perpetrators operate - I now realize that what I know is just the tip of the iceberg. So – let’s review what I know (or thought I knew).
First off, what is child sexual abuse? Basically, any sexual act directed toward a child. The act is done solely for the pleasure of the perpetrator. The child is a victim, the power and control dynamic is ever present and fully active. The perpetrator may also be a child; in such cases the child perpetrator has more power which maybe in the form of knowledge, age, popularity etc. And, last but not least, child sexual abuse is never consensual as children cannot consent.
How often does child sexual abuse happen? The numbers vary but research shows approximately 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience sexual abuse by the time they turn 18 years old. The lowest number I’ve come across is 1 out of 10 kids. This research did not differentiate between genders and did not consider non-contact abuse. I’m not sure what the point of that was because exhibitionism and voyeurism are certainly victimizing acts. Since estimates in the field are commonly 1 out 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys, let’s do the math here. In a classroom of 25 children, that is about 2-3 girls and 1-2 boys. Even if we use the research estimate of 1 out of 10 kids that is still more than 2 kids per classroom. Yep – it’s that common.
What impact does child sexual abuse have on victims? This is a traumatizing event, to say the least. If you’re familiar with ACES research, (Adverse Child Experiences). Consider that only about 5% of the incidents of child sexual abuse is done at the hands of a stranger. So that means the child victim usually knows, usually loves and trusts, the perpetrator. Think about that – this is a violation down to the core! After such a violation, victims have trust issues. They feel guilt, shame and responsible for what has happened. They have low self-esteem and self-worth. They go on to have relationship problems. They turn to any number of things to cope and feel better – alcohol, drugs, food, and delinquency. They are often promiscuous. They suffer from depression and anxiety. Honestly, the list goes on and on.
Protecting children is the responsibility of adults – period. Adults are given the enormous task of keeping our kids safe and raising them so that they can take over and manage things long after we’re all gone. I was the person empowering kids with assertiveness skills in the area of personal safety. But that message and those personal safety programs are not meant to stand alone – ever. As a parent, you’re not free and clear once your kid has “the little talk” at school. And I’m not referring to the stranger danger message, the term “stranger danger” is not recommended by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, by the way. In my experience, parents are all too eager to discuss the boogie-man stranger with their kids. Things get a little more difficult and challenging when it’s Grandpa, the babysitter who’s come through in a bind, a coach, someone at church, or that nice neighbor kid two houses over. But it’s time to take up that challenge, folks, because as I mentioned above 95% of those 1-5 kids in that classroom who are victimized by child sexual abuse know their perpetrator. The odds of your kid being abducted and killed by a stranger are substantially lower than that – think winning the lottery. The tragic and horrific nature of stranger abduction crimes certainly grabs our attention and yes – our kids need to know what to do if they are approached by a stranger. But with this kind of data staring us in the face they REALLY need to know what to do if the person is NOT a stranger.
So now that I have given all this information direct, straight, and to the point. How do we deal with this awful reality in our world? How do you talk to kids about this sort of stuff?
First, planning out your conversation with your kids or children you love. Keep the following in mind.
Use simple language, be genuine, and be honest. One approach is talking about problems because we all have problems. Some big problems – some little problems. Some people lie so they have a lying problem. Some people spend way more money than they have so they have money problems. And some people have touching problems. You can then go on to say something like - I’m your parent and I love you more than anything. If someone ever touches you in a way you don’t like – you can tell me and I will believe you. You won’t be in trouble – ever. Start there and see where it goes.
That seems simple enough, right? Well, now I’m going to have you thinking about the back of a shampoo bottle… “rinse and repeat”.
Have you ever considered if we followed those directions we would never get out of the shower? But I digress – repeat this conversation in a developmentally appropriate manner with your child 3-4 times per year. Of course somewhere between age 5 and 8 all children need to have received basic sex education from their parents. If your kid is over 8 years old and they do not truly understand where babies come from – take care of that today. A good book to help you - Did the sun shine before you were born? Written by Sol and Judith Gordon.
Another way to look at it and I’ve used this analogy for folks who feel this subject is too scary for kids. Well, having their school blown away by a tornado or burning down in a fire is pretty scary too. Yet they have fire drills and tornado drills in the school. Now, in light of the number of school shootings our country has experienced they have lock-down drills. People – this is scary stuff and the school (my kid’s school anyway) just does it – they don’t notify parents or get a permission slip signed. Why? Because these things are reality – they happen – and kids need to know what to do if fill in the blank happens. I’m advocating that being victimized by sexual abuse be a fill in the blank issue. Yep – it’s that common – it happens.
With either of the examples above, the subject is being blended into a number of other like issues that children face – people have touching problems – safety issue akin to a fire – be creative and pick your way to talk to your child. But do it – don’t shy away from it.
Believe me, perpetrators steer clear of kids who know what sex is; they avoid secure and self-assured kids; and want nothing to do with kids who are well-versed in knowledge of what to do and who to go to if/when someone seems a little off.
So, as I mentioned above I knew the tip of the iceberg of how perpetrators operate before I joined the team doing Protecting our Children – Advice from Child Molesters. What I knew then was that perpetrators groom children. What I know now is they groom families, organizations, and communities (think Jerry Sandusky). What I knew then was that perpetrators seek vulnerable children. What I know now is they manipulate situations so that vulnerable children are even more vulnerable. They isolate their victims. They create situations so the victim and victim’s family are dependent upon the perpetrator. Make no mistake – child sexual abuse is a crime and child molesters are criminals. They have criminal thinking. They do criminal acts. And they are in our churches, our schools, our communities, and our families.
The most profound thing I have learned from Protecting Our Children – Advice from Child Molesters is to not insulate myself and think it is “those people – over there”. Even with everything I knew then, teaching this information directly to children myself, I still to some degree separated myself from it. I talked the talk but I didn’t walk the walk – not always. Now, at the end of the community education when the team and I are summarizing all the points there stands that bullet point - Be open to the fact that someone you know is a child molester. Yep – it’s that common. And once we wrap our collective head around THAT FACT, we will be in a better place to do more about it.
Contributed by: Renae Jones MS, LMHCP