By US Daily Review Staff.
any parents are overwhelmed by fear for their kids, asking how they can protect their children from people like Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State coach who held a position of respect and power in his community and was recently convicted of 45 counts of child abuse, as reported in the New York Times. A new book from the founder of Kidpower, a nonprofit leader in people safety education, offers five tips for protecting kids from abuse, violence and other dangers.
“Like many sexual predators, Jerry Sandusky developed strong relationships of love and trust with his victims before molesting them,” says van der Zande, child safety expert and the author of The Kidpower Book For Caring Adults, a comprehensive guide on how to protect children from sexual abuse, abduction, bullying and other violence, including clear explanations, inspiring stories, and step-by-step explanations about how to practice skills.
A veteran instructor of self-protection and self-defense workshops to adults as well as children and teens for more than 20 years, van der Zande finds the stories told by Sandusky’s victims in the trial “chillingly similar to the stories we hear from adult survivors of child sexual abuse in our classes.”
After the guilty verdict for Sandusky was announced, van der Zande responded to the latest influx of questions from parents by also publishing an excerpt from The Kidpower Book For Caring Adults on her “Put Safety First” Blog with steps parents can take toprotect kids from abuse:
“As these terrible stories come to light, we need to understand that Sandusky is not unique,” van der Zande writes. “Pedophiles know how to find and manipulate vulnerable kids – and how to put on a great show for everyone else, even members of their family. Almost certainly, as I write this, a child is being abused behind closed doors somewhere in your town – and in mine. And these kids are not speaking up because the person abusing them is someone they love and trust – a member of their family, a mentor, someone they are dependent on.
Here are five steps from Kidpower.org to protect children from being betrayed by someone they love and trust.
1. Accept the reality that many child molesters may seem like wonderful people. Don’t be fooled by outside appearances. Pay attention to what someone is actually doing with your kids. If someone who is responsible for the care of many kids starts to single your child out for special attention, be careful. Don’t assume that someone is safe just because this person is generous, beloved, charming, and kind.
2. Teach kids about touch in healthy relationships. The Kidpower rules include: “Touch or games for play, teasing, or affection should be the choice of each person, safe, allowed by the grownups in charge, and not a secret. Other people should not touch your private areas or ask you to touch their private areas. Touch for health and safety is sometimes not a choice but should never be a secret.” Rehearse with kids how to stop unwanted touch using non-sexual touch, like someone patting their head or holding their hand. Give kids practice in persisting in setting their boundaries by pretending to act sad or by offering a bribe and having them say “No” again.
3. Teach kids to tell, even if someone they care about will be upset. The Kidpower rule is that “Problems should not be secrets.” Get kids into the habit of talking to you by listening without lecturing or judging. Ask occasionally, “Is there anything you’ve been wondering or worrying about that you haven’t told me?” Remind kids that their safety is the most important thing in the world to you and that you want to know if anything happens that is against your safety rules. Rehearse with kids how to interrupt a busy, impatient adult with a safety problem and how to persist in getting help if the adult doesn’t understand or believe them.
4. Take action if someone’s behavior makes you uncomfortable. Speak up about anything someone does with kids that you are not sure is safe. You don’t have to assume child abuse but you do have to be aware of the possibility of someone harming your child either intentionally or accidentally. If this person has good intentions, then you can work out concerns or misunderstandings. Pay attention to your intuition. Don’t make or accept excuses. Keep supervising to ensure that your child is in safe hands.
5. Understand that Putting Safety First takes an ongoing commitment. Make safety conversations a daily part of your lives. Keep talking to kids and regularly ask, “Is there anything you’ve been wondering about, or worrying about, that you haven’t shared with me?” Keep paying attention and speak up if you see a problem. And keep practicing people safety skills with kids — just like they need to practice anything else, like brushing their teeth, they need to practice boundary setting and self-protection skills like awareness and getting help when they have a problem in order to make it a healthy habit. The Kidpower books provides a fun effective empowering way to do it!
About Irene van der Zande and Kidpower:
Irene van der Zande is the Founder and Executive Director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International. Her new book, “The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People,” with a foreword by Gavin de Becker, is the most comprehensive resource available for parents, teachers, and other adults who care about protecting children and teens from bullying, child abuse, abduction, and other violence and want to learn how to empower young people with skills for taking charge of their emotional and physical safety. Van der Zande is available for interviews or to provide guest blog posts. Kidpower services include educational resources, workshops, and consultation on how to create cultures of caring, respect, and safety for everyone, everywhere. Contact safety(at)kidpower(dot)org with requests for interviews, resources or permission to use requirements.
Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International®, known as Kidpower® (http://www.kidpower.org), is highly recommended by experts worldwide for taking a positive, skills-based approach to bullying, violence, abuse and kidnapping prevention. Instead of using fear to teach young people about violence prevention, the Kidpower Method™ makes it fun to learn to be safe, building habits that increase the skills and confidence of kids, parents, teachers and other caring adults that can last a lifetime.
Kidpower has served more than 2 million people of all ages and abilities, since its founding as a nonprofit organization in 1989, offering workshops through more than 20 centers and offices across the US and around the world, as well as an extensive free library of articles, podcasts and blog posts online and affordable publications that are used by hundreds of thousands of people every year. Visit http://www.kidpower.org for more information about people safety for children, teens and adults and training opportunities in your area.