The first day of school can be a little like a favorite holiday morning. Kids are up early — the kind of excited, dressed and raring to go early that simply doesn’t happen the rest of the year. There is an element of eagerness in the air. The perfect outfit, newly acquired during back-to-school shopping, was selected days before. Backpacks stuffed with new school supplies hang from shoulders as parents snap pictures of grinning kids holding “first day of __ grade” signs.
We all know what an exciting time this can be for kids. They have a whole new year in front of them filled with new possibilities. Unfortunately, it’s also a time of year that presents predators with new opportunities and a time when the potential for child sexual abuse increases.
Back-to-school season brings transitions. Kids are headed to new schools. They’ve landed spots on school sports teams and are joining clubs. They may also be taking part in new, non-school extracurricular activities. All of this translates to new adults in their lives — new teachers, new coaches, new club sponsors.
As we are kicking off the school year, now is the perfect time to make sure we are arming our families and our children with information about abuse prevention. Some parents worry that these kinds of conversations can be uncomfortable for both them and their kids. They don’t want their kids to feel anxious or afraid. But, these conversations are so very critical.
Research has shown us that 95 percent of child sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness.
Parents, there is a way to talk about personal safety with your kids from a place of fun, not fear. Lauren’s Kids has created a personal safety resource for families called Safer, Smarter Families. Through this online resource, you can create your own personalized family safety plan that is customized based your child’s age. It’s interactive, and it’s incredibly easy to use. Oh, and it’s 100 percent FREE.
Here’s what you do. Go to safersmarterfamilies.org and click the button at the bottom to get started. First, you will be asked to answer a few general questions — about your child, your family and the technology your child has access to. From that, we are able to generate a customized set of resources designed for your family.
You’ll find that all of the resources and tools in your family safety plan provide age-appropriate strategies you can share with your kids to empower them to stay safe and find help in situations that may be, or become, unsafe.
The “Steps to Safety” included in your plan is your go-to guide on developing and following safety strategies and sharing these with your kids. There’s a glossary of terms written in a child friendly language that defines words you’ll encounter while interacting with pieces of your plan. Many of the safety tools and strategies include a short explanatory video you can watch with your kids. Be sure to use the fun, printable activities and work together with your kids to complete those.
All of these tools reinforce safety strategies. And, it’s really important that your kids practice these strategies. The more they practice, the more they will become a permanent and automatic part of how your children react to potentially unsafe situations.
As one of the 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in America, I know what it feels like to be in an unsafe situation without knowing the best way to get out of that situation. The abuse I survived has fueled my mission to provide families with resources such as Safer, Smarter Families, and additional resources available at Lauren’s Kids, that help kids identify safe and unsafe situations, provide them with mechanisms for handling those situations and, ultimately, prevent child sexual abuse.
Now that we’re back to hitting the books, I encourage each of you to take a few minutes to create your family safety plan and talk with your kids about personal safety. No matter their age, it’s never too early — or too late — to have these conversations.
Here’s to a great and safe school year!
About the Author
Lauren Book, M.S. Ed, founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, was a victim of childhood sexual abuse for six years at the hands of her female nanny. Armed with the knowledge that 95 percent of sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness, Lauren has worked to turn her horrific personal experience into a vehicle to prevent childhood sexual abuse and help other survivors heal.