I don’t care about the Duggars any more than I care about any family in the news. Many Catholics see them as role models, but they seem to have attitudes about children and women which are antithetical to Catholic ideas. Did their son molest girls because of his upbringing? Maybe, maybe not. I’m not familiar enough with their parenting style to know. I do know that it’s possible for parents to do their hardest to raise their kids right, and their kids do shitty things anyway. It’s also true that families who look squeaky clean and happy on the outside are hiding a lot of interior darkness. I haven’t followed the story closely, so I don’t have an opinion about whose fault everything is.
But the story made my ask myself: would my kids know what to do if someone molested them?
There are always going to be predators in the world. Your child is reasonably likely to come into contact with one eventually, and this is true whether you home school or use Catholic or public or private schools, and it’s true if you keep your kids tucked under your wings or let them roam. It’s true if most of your friends are conservative Catholic or none of your friends are even religious. It’s a good world, overall, but there are bad people in it. You can’t change that.What you can do is give your kids a clue about what is reasonable behavior and what isn’t, and what to do if someone is behaving badly.
This pdf guide for parents gives a reasonable overview of how to discuss keeping kids safe from sexual abuse. It’s secular, and pretty basic, so you can use it as a starting point for conversations. No one wants to talk about these things, but you must. You must. Don’t assume that they’ll be fine, and don’t assume they’ll know what to do if something goes wrong.
Don’t forget to ask your kids if they have any questions after you talk! Young kids think very concretely, about real-life circumstances, and they always remember information better if they asked about it themselves.
And also: talk to your kids all the time, about everything. If you’re not in the habit of chatting about this and that, why would they come to you when there’s something scary and weird to talk about? I know some kids just don’t like to talk — or, in some cases, they may just not enjoy talking to you. When that’s the case, it’s a good idea to tell them, repeatedly, that they can talk to you, or that they can talk to your spouse, or that they can talk to [trusted adult X]. Some kids need you to open a door a thousand times before they even think of putting a foot through.
Image via Wikimedia Commons