We don’t want to have difficult discussions with our kids which expose them to the darker side of life and people, but it’s necessary, for their safety and for our mental health to know we’ve done our best to prepare them.
Expecting the schools to cover it? Well, they do for some things, but for other situations, parental support and input is vital too.
As far as churches, I have personally seen religious people putting up walls against those uncomfortable thoughts, they tell themselves and others “Jesus will protect them when I’m not around”, which is nice, but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all the time, does it? We see the daily headlines to know this is all too true.
There’s so much we as parents, grandparents, family, friends, and community need to be mindful of and teach kids about, that yes, sometimes it’s just emotionally easier to try to turn a blind eye.
Teaching our kids about the darker sides of life isn’t a sign of a lack of faith in Jesus, for that matter, (nor does it give teenagers the green light to have sexual relations simply because they learn how the human body works), but teaching helps them build wisdom and the ability the make safe and healthy decisions.
Giving age-appropriate information to kids is important to help them become functioning adults.
Here’s a link to an article that links to a video a mom posted: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/mom-brilliantly-explains-to-kids-how-to-spot-a-bad-adult/ar-AA11OYm2?cvid=ccaada5ffb1a4d83a5e164b64fc9bf85
The mom gave an analogy of lions walking through a herd of zebras, seemingly without any of them noticing. Mom then explained how predators will get their prey accustomed to them doing seemingly harmless behavior, and when the zebras have let their guard down, how the lions will be able to hunt them much easier.
She went on to explain to them that there are humans who behave like the lions do, to get close to their target, and to get everyone’s guards down.
She went on to give a few red-flag examples of what had recently happened which got her to intercede on behalf of her child.
Not every person getting close to our kids is a predator or pedophile, but as adults, we need to be aware that is exactly how predators work, and what kinds of red flags to look for.
According to the Mama Bear Effect Blog, “Red Flags of Child Predators”, these are some red flags to keep an eye out for. (List has been consolidated and alphabetized from the lists she has in the article.)
- A person that seeks opportunities to spend time alone with a child (most likely frequently) may even offer or take them on trips where they are alone for overnight or longer.
- Attempts to make you doubt your protective instincts “you’re not one of those helicopter parents, are you?”
- Children that are or have previously experienced abuse – physical, emotional, or sexual and are not in therapy.
- Children that exhibit bullying, aggressive, or controlling behavior
- Children that have a negative view of females or those of other sexual orientations/gender identities
- Children that have not been educated on human sexuality and proper/responsible sexual behavior (In such cases, the child may abuse other children out of curiosity (with a limited understanding that their behavior is wrong) – but the act is still abusive upon the child victim.) Hazing may also fall under this category.
- Children who view pornography
- Comments or conversations about a child’s appearance – which may even take a turn for the inappropriate – may make flirtatious remarks to the child
- Disregards “no” “stop” or other efforts from a child to avoid physical contact
- Eagerness to learn details of your personal (possibly romantic) life and your child and their interests
- Flattery of you, your child, their talents, and likewise, they may boast about their own successes/accomplishments, charitable work, generosity, etc
- Gives gifts or special privileges and may ask the child to keep it a secret
- Gives gifts or special privileges for no apparent reason
- Has a “favorite” child they seem to spend time with (which may vary from year to year)
- If you are a single parent (especially a mother) – this person may be a new or potential romantic interest that comes off as “too good to be true” or anyone that seems interested in filling in as a fatherly role for your child.
- If your child is particularly talented (musically, artistically, athletically, or is involved in pageants, etc) and someone approaches you with opportunities that seem like they would benefit your child – private lessons/photography shoots/meeting scouts, etc
- Long stares or periods of watching a child
- May exhibit a sense that they feel they have special rights/privileges above others
- Minimizes the need to respect privacy when dressing/going to the bathroom. May try to normalize nudity around children
- Offers to “help out” with your child – a stranger that may offer to walk them to an arcade while you’re shopping at the mall, or an acquaintance that offers to watch or give your child a ride to soccer practice when you find yourself in a bind.
- Overly affectionate/playful with children – hugging, tickling, wrestling, holding, or having a child sit on their lap
- Seems to like the very same things that your child is interested in
- Someone that communicates with a child in private – via social media, text message, email, etc
- Someone that may be going through a difficult period in life and – job loss, divorce, a death in the family – something that may add stress, feelings of depression, low self-esteem, and/or loneliness. (These are common indicators that someone who would not be considered a pedophile, may turn to sexually abusing a child as a means to cope with unhappiness.)
- Someone that spends a lot of time viewing pornography, and especially anyone who views child pornography (this may seem obvious, but viewing child pornography is not an interest or curiosity – it is participation in a crime of sexual abuse upon a child.)
- Someone that suggests a child is “troubled” or prone to lying (to discredit future claims of abuse by the child.)
- Spends more time with children than adults or peers – may even come off as immature and childish themselves
- Tries to establish a sense of camaraderie with your child and draw your child away from you “I know how parents are” and “you’re old enough to go alone”.
- Volunteers or works with children but do not have children of their own, or child-friendly toys – video games, tree house, train sets/doll collections, etc
“Seeing one or more of these red flag does not necessarily mean that you are in the presence of a sexual abuser, but if your instinct is feeling something is off – be vigilant, speak up if their behavior is inappropriate, and minimize this person’s access to children – especially in a 1:1 situation, which is the case for an estimated 80% of all child sexual abuse. Raising awareness, in a casual way, that you are educated about child sexual abuse may put some potential abusers on guard, in fear they may be caught. Some predators can be very patient with their grooming behaviors which is why it is important to consider the risk of abuse not just with new acquaintances but those we’ve known and grown to trust.”Mama Bear Effect Blog, “Red Flags of Child Predators”
What Can We Do To Reduce the Risk of Abuse?
- Educate the People we Trust and Build a Body Safety Circle Around Children
- Empower Children to Know Their Rights and Be Prepared to Defend Them
- Minimize Opportunity for Abuse
- Speak Up When We Witness Inappropriate Behavior or Situations That Increase Risk
Back to the example of the church: some predators will purposefully choose to seek their prey amongst church families because their guards are much lower than non-church people. “He’s a Christian, he wouldn’t do anything like that!” Sorry to burst a bubble, but just Google “sexual abuse in churches” if you aren’t at all aware of the crimes being exposed even in the past couple of years alone.
I witnessed a couple of predators in the 2 evangelical churches I had attended. The denial in the congregation that “one of us” could do such a thing was very real. Only until their arrests did people wake up and see, but even then, there were those who tried to brush it under the carpet.
People mistakenly think that kids “forget” about any trauma that happened to them when young so they try to minimize it, but the opposite happens. The trauma gets buried deep within a person, and if untreated can develop into severe anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other issues which develop as a result of those, which is why I decided it’s important to write this post.
It’s not only in church settings will predators choose to place themselves to gather the low-hanging fruit, it’s schools, clubs, sports, or any situation where people’s guards may be down.
It’s important for adults to be aware of what the red flags are, and remove our kids from harm’s way.
“Even if someone’s intention is not harmful, it is important to address and correct inappropriate behavior so that children understand what to expect from people in a position of authority. We’ve heard from numerous parents who weren’t sure what to do because they couldn’t prove the person’s intentions, but knew the behavior was not appropriate for their position. The answer is simple – say something because you know it’s not right and it can enable abuse, it’s not our job to prove someone has ill intentions but to prioritize child safety.”Mama Bear Effect Blog, “Red Flags of Child Predators”
More articles by Mama Bear Effect Blog, “Red Flags of Child Predators”:
- Five Ways Parents Can Deter Predators
- Minimizing Opportunity for Abuse
- Signs & Symptoms of Sexual Abuse
These aren’t easy talks to have with our kids, but we live in an age where it is necessary. I hope this post and the linked article can help start a discussion within your family.
I hope you’ll poke around my Archived Posts to find a wonderful trove of supportive and encouraging posts!
I’m sharing more posts that may be helpful for you:
- 10 Steps to Owning Our Happiness
- Setting “Boundaries with consequences”
- Making a change… “How do I take that first step?”
- Affirmation: Today is a new day! I can do this!
- As we practice being gentle and kind with ourselves, we actually help to speed the process of helping our lives become more positive!
- Always believe that wonderful things can happen!
- A healthy outside starts from the inside!
- Brain Rewiring
More good stuff:
- Teaching ourselves to like, even to love ourselves
- By changing our inner dialogue, we change EVERYTHING!
- Challenge: When a negative thought enters your mind, think three positive ones. Train yourself to flip the script!
- Red Ocean or Blue Ocean? How do you think?
- An answer to dealing with the Inner Critic!
- My top 10 most viewed posts, plus a few bonuses!
- A helpful trick to be able to overcome negatively Comparing Ourselves to others…
- Do you only accept yourself if you look a certain way?
- A new you! Is this possible?
- Start today, start tomorrow, just start!
- There is no enlightenment outside of daily life – Thich Nhat Hanh
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