How do you talk to your kids about sexual predators?

November 10, 2011

When a story as disturbing as the Penn State child sex abuse scandal dominates headlines, what do you say to your kids? Should you say anything?

“It’s a very appropriate time for parents to take advantage of talking to their kids about these issues when it’s in the news,” said Dr. Pete Stavinoha, a neuropsychologist at Children’s.

He said there are two very important messages to convey to children starting from their toddler years.

The first lesson is to explain that they have a right to personal protection. Dr. Stavinoha said to teach children that their bodies are private and that they have permission to set limits and boundaries with adults. This is particularly important with submissive children, he said.

The second lesson is to urge children to be willing to speak up if they experience or see an adult doing anything they think is wrong.

Dr. Stavinoha said these lessons should be emphasized any time a child gets a new coach or starts a new school year and will be under the care of new adults.

“You don’t want to make kids paranoid, because instances like the Penn State scandal are rare,” he said. “Obviously, you don’t want to make them untrusting of every coach or teacher, but you still need to tell them there are bad people out there in the world.”