Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Are You Watching?

You can teach your kids to come talk to you about anything. You can keep them from playing at friends houses or going to the park alone. You can not allow them to have sleepovers...but the truth is we can't protect them from everything and even thought we think they will tell us, we don't know how they have been threatened. If you have never been in that place it's hard to understand. As parents it's important that we know the signs of sexual abuse and that we understand how to talked to our kids about it. It's too much to talk about in just one post so we will break it up into a few posts.

I've seen the signs before. It can break your heart to just have the thought...wondering if a precious little girls you are working with has been sexually abused. It happens more often than we would like to think. It's said that the cases of sexual abuse has been in decline, but it's hard to actually know, because some 88% of cases of sexual abuse are never reported.

We often teach our children about "stranger danger", but there are so few times that we actually teach them that someone who they trust and know well can hurt them. In as many as 93% of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows the person that commits the abuse. This means that as parents we need to be open with our children about keeping their bodies safe. We also need to keep our eyes open to signs that our children have been sexually abused.

It's easier to not think about it. When you see those signs it's so much easier to live in denial. No one wants to believe that something like this would happen to their child. For the moment it is easier to live in darkness and believe that ignorance is bliss, but that darkness can turn into harder issues when that child grows older.

When children have been sexually abused it can cause them to have different physiological and physical signs. Every child is different and just because your child has one of these signs doesn't mean that they have been sexually abused. It may be there for another reason. After you have assessed these signs it's more important about how you approach the child about the topic. Communication being something I am passionate about we will be sure to go over good ways later on this week.  Here are some things that might occur when a child has been sexually abused:

*A separation from reality by mentally removing themselves from the situation- many people who have been abused are able to disassociate themselves to such an extent that, for years, they may not even remember they were abused.
*Children might display sexual knowledge that is beyond what is normal for their age.
*Unexplained pain, irritation, and swelling around the genital areas.
*Depression, sleep disturbances, nightmares, frequent urinary infections, isolation from family and friends, or withdrawal from usual activities.
*Tendency to become either obsessive or apathetic about hygiene.
*Anxiety, passivity or overly "pleasing" behavior, low self-esteem, self-destructive behavior, and promiscuous activity.
*Many people who have been sexually abused all into obsessive compulsive behavior patterns such as excessive bathing, teeth-brushing, or hand-washing due to feeling perpetually dirty.
*Many victims of sexual abuse will turn to food as a source of comfort which often develops into and eating disorder: anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating

Friday, May 16, 2014

Would You Talk?

I have always believed that we have taught our girls to communicate well with us. It's something I am completely passionate about and am always looking for wonderful and creative ways to incorporate communication in our lives with the girls. But even though you really stress a topic there can still come a day when you wonder if you have really done the job well. Are your children really understanding? Do they really know that they can come to you to talk about anything?

That day came for me about a month ago when we got a call from CPS. Knowing wants a call from them? When I heard the message so many thoughts and worries started to race through my head. One of our girls had been named in another case. They thought that she may have been sexually abused or there when something had happened. It all seemed crazy! Why wouldn't she talk to me? I didn't know the name of the other little girl so my mind was just racing.

The drive to the CPS office that took literally a minute seemed like it took hours. Each little section of road got my mind going. What happened? Did something really go on with her? Did she really feel like she couldn't tell me? It's an interview that you never want your kid to go through. Having to talk about good touches, bad touches and private touches...who wants their little girl to have to talk about that?

My heart jumped with joy because it ended up that it wasn't our little girl that was there. It was another little girl, but they needed to find her. My heart was so mixed up with joy and sorrow. I guess perhaps somewhere along the line my girls have gotten it because as we walked out of the office my sweet little girl leaned over to me and said...

"You know mom...if anything happened I would have told you!"

That moment made me realize how important teaching open communication to my children is. How do you teach communication to your children? Would your children feel comfortable talking to you about anything? I want to approach this subject with my children and I feel like you must have a good mixture of love and grace.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

That Little Girl...

She sat at the little table with the other kindergartners all staring at the paper in front of them. The big question was looming over all of their heads...

"When I grow up, I want to be..."

Most of the children were writing down things, firefighter or policeman! But this little girl was special. Her biggest dream in life was to be like her cousin. She wanted to be a cheerleader. She had dreamt of it for most of her 5 years of life. What fun it would be to cheer on others has they played hard at their sport of choice.

How funny to think about this day some 25 years later. Talking with a friend about the choices that are staring me in the face. Not sure what direction to go and not sure what I want to be when I grow up. She had mentioned it would be so easy if we could just be what we wrote down when we were little and that made me laugh just a bit. I would be a cheerleader.

I thought it was a bit funny at first, but really isn't that what we all should be. Little cheerleaders for others in our lives. Cheering them on to run the race we call life. Encouraging them to be the best that they can be in everything that they do. So really that little 5 year old so confident that she wanted to be a cheerleader...maybe she had the right idea all along.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Smiles...Pass Them on!

Smiles have made the difference for me today. The difference between the cranky mom who was here yesterday and the delightful mom who showed up today. My husband is gone and that causes the whole family to feel like it's falling apart. The kids are a mess and miss their dad, and I don't have my husband to help keep me focused.

At church today it was the smiles from friends. They really lifted my spirits and those smiles that came from them went to my kids. They love getting smiles. They love making people smile. A smile simply put on your face can turn the whole day around.

I debated with if the girls and I should go home and eat or go out. I was swishing around the pros and cons in my head and I lifted my hands and said "Forget it....we are going out!" After a bit of debate, sadness that our first choice wasn't open we ended up at Pizza Hut.

My kids were wonderful. Politely asked to get out for more food. Asked nicely for the cheese to be passed. There was hardly a complaint to be heard. I would say that our table was full of smiles and laughs. I often feel uncomfortable eating out with just me and the girls. We tend to get looks and have people asking questions. Anyone with a large family would understand...but with each glance that came my way I simply gave a smile.

I guess my smile did something. Perhaps it did some good. An older couple sitting a table near us came over. They asked some of the normal questions like "Are they all yours?" and then they said something I don't hear all the time.

"Your smile shows you love being a mom. You are doing a great job. You put smiles on our faces"

I wonder how often people thing the opposite of me. I'm that mom yelling at her kids in Walmart because they can't keep their hands off stuff. I am that mom giving my kid a dirty look because they aren't behaving right. How often am I that mom who looks overwhelmed and like she doesn't enjoy motherhood?

If today taught me anything it's that a simple smile can turn the whole day around into something fantastic. Stopping to give a smile can help me enjoy what I have in this moment, and it can help others enjoy their moments just a little bit more.