Piglet: "How do you spell love?"
Pooh: "You don't spell it. You feel it." (A. A. Milne)
A wise statement from a bear whose head is stuffed with fluff, don't ya think? Pooh and his friends always make me smile and long to climb into the pages of the book and spend a day in The Hundred Acre Wood. If only life could be that innocent, that safe, for us and for our children.
But the statistics shout even if we ignore them. One out of every four girls and one out of every six boys will be sexually violated by their eighteenth birthday. Sexual abuse is an epidemic. It won't just disappear. So how do we, as loving parents, begin to inoculate our children against this heinous threat? Let's dissect the wisdom from our little friend, Pooh.
We spell love in many ways for our children. We provide food, clothing, and shelter. We help with homework, taxi them to games and concerts, take them to their well checks once a year, and the list goes on and on. But we can spell it forwards and backwards, upside down and right-side-up, and if our children don't feel loved, we've opened the door wide for an abuser to abuse. Children who don't feel loved are easy targets for perpetrators, and perpetrators are looking for easy targets.
So how do children feel loved? I'll defer to the experts on this one and recommend two books. (I know, I know, who has time to read? I promise you, these books are worth the time.)
In his best selling book, Howto Really Love Your Child, Dr. Ross Campell encourages parents to convey love to their children through four areas: eye contact, physical contact, focused attention, and discipline. It's my favorite parenting book. A friend recommended it to me long ago. I needed it. I'm a "doer". I like to get things done--check things of my list. "Doers" buzz right by Dr. Campell's first three principles. Believe me, my kids are better off because I read the book and now that I'm entering take-two of my parenting (foster children), it's time for me to read it again.
The Five Love Languages of Children, by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campell, is another great read for parents who want their children to feel loved. The authors divide how children (and adults) "hear" love into five languages: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. I have a child who's a hugger. He grabs a hold of his momma often. His momma, who's not a hugger, but a quality time kinda gal, needs to grab a hold of her hugger often. That's how he best understands love. Great book.
Over the next several weeks I'll give you more tips on how to protect your kids, but nothing will give your kids more protection than your love communicated in ways your children can understand it, or as Pooh Bear wisely states, in ways they can feel it.
Building a relationship with your children where they feel loved and valued is the second step in protecting them from sexual abuse. Refusing to ignore the epidemic of childhood sexual abuse is the where we begin (step one).