Hank: Do you see the light is green?
Me: All those lights are green. When that happens it means the lights are timed. That means little robots tell the lights to let everyone go at once.
Hank: Outside robots?
Me: Yes, they live up by the lights.
Hank: We cannot see them. We should go on a walk to see them. And then they will give me robot high fives!
A couple points that didn’t make it into the video: We don’t require Hank to express affection. If we ask him to hug someone, or kiss them goodnight, and he says no? That’s the end of the discussion. We say, “Oh, Hank is feeling shy right now. Maybe later,” and we drop it. Because he’s so little and he can’t yet process conversations about sexual abuse, I feel like this is one of the best ways to show him he has the right to decide how and whether touching occurs. My intent is to focus on self-esteem in general, and particularly around issues of personal space to make him a difficult target for predator grooming.
Advice from those with experience welcome in comments.
Update: A few more things I’d like to add after reading comments.
Jan, who was a police officer, makes an excellent point in comments that we can mitigate the damage done to especially young children by reacting with care. Her comment is worth a read.
Amanda said: “I think that this is where things get really difficult — when it’s someone you know, a friend of the family or family itself. If you don’t want to put that person through the criminal justice system (for whatever reason) but you want to respond appropriately. This is where I’m guessing a lot of parents are at a loss.”
I’m not directing this at you Amanda, but I appreciate you raising such a good point. I have to say that I strongly disagree with the notion of helping an abuser avoid the criminal justice system, even if it’s a close loved one with mitigating circumstances. The impulse to shield attackers through silence or inaction is a deep betrayal of our children. Keeping quiet sends a strong message that you’re choosing the molester over your own child’s well being, and to me that’s an abusive mindset. Of course it’s painful to realize that someone you love is an abuser, but better that person suffer for his or her choices than your child suffer further emotional damage in realizing that you are unwilling to fulfill your role as protector.
Also folks are offering some good resources:
King County Sexual Assault Resource Center for how to talk to your kids in age appropriate ways
The Secret of the Silver Horse is a story for older kids.
Protecting the Gift by Gavin DeBecker for those who want more information on protecting their kids’ instincts and their own