Late August through early September, the back-to-school pics flood Facebook and other social media. With our busy lives, social media has become the most efficient way to stay in touch. I enjoy watching the kids grow through the years and seeing what activities they are involved in. Every year, I look forward to those back-to-school pictures. I love seeing the kids beaming with their shiny new backpacks and school clothes that have never been worn until now and most likely will never be clean again. The feeling of excitement is palpable even through the screen.
It is a bittersweet time of year for me. As much as I love those posts, I want to reach through the computer and grab those parents by the shoulders and tell them wait! Have you had the talk with your kids? Please don’t send those kids back to school until you’ve had the talk. Not the birds and bees talk but one that is equally, if not more, important. This talk needs to happen before they even start pre-school and continue every school year after. The talk is about safe boundaries and inappropriate touching.
I wish I could just click the “like” button or add my smiley face emoji and move on but I can’t. So many thoughts flood my brain. I feel a sense of urgency to tell every single parent that all of those fire drills, terrorist drills and stranger danger training are teaching our kids about outside threats that, while important, are not only beyond our control but the odds are they won’t even happen to your kid in their lifetime. What is more likely to occur and has statistics of 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys, is that they will be sexually abused. And more than 90% of the time, the abuse is done by someone they know, trust and possibly love.
My daughter was molested by her teacher the second week of the third grade. We have taken that quintessential first day of school picture every single year. The picture in this post is the picture we took for third grade. It was used in the opening statement in our trial. It is one of my most favorite pictures of my daughter and yet it is tied to the most traumatic experience of our lives. I wish the dichotomy didn’t exist so that every time a friend posts their kids back-to-school picture I could just feel the love and not the need to save every child from sexual abuse.
Keep taking those photos and please keep sharing them with us on social media. Have fun back-to-school shopping with your kids. Please add to your annual back-to-school traditions, a talk about inappropriate touch and clear boundaries. We all know how much our kids change over the course of one year. Use this time of year to take an assessment of who is in contact with your child. Where are the one-on-one situations occurring or have the potential to occur? Do some rearranging to avoid those situations. This is not about living in fear or scaring your kids. This is about having family rules and boundaries so that your kids do not have to carry the burden of knowing right from wrong or fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Empower yourself and your kids through child sexual abuse prevention training.