[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ave you heard it said that the world is moving much faster these days compared to when we were children? With that in mind, we want to provide our readers with some safeguards as suggestions to follow when friends come over to visit. Together with our contributors and mom friends, we have gathered questions to ask The Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County. Thank you to Rubyth, Director of Community Education, for providing these valuable insights.
How do we start an open conversation with our children when friends come to play?
Begin by gathering information about your child’s friends. Start with open-ended questions such as “tell me about John”; “tell me some things you like about John”; “some things you do not like about him”; “tell me about John’s family”. The key phrase in that is “tell me about”. This phrase leads the child to answer more freely versus asking the child a direct question that would involve a simple yes/no answer. Let them know that safe guards are put in place to protect everyone and make sure everyone is safe.
Should parents/guardians take up cell phones and other devices when visitors arrive?
This will be upon the discretion of the adult. Personally, you can have a basket/bin/box and tell the children you have a no cell phone rule in the house and that they are to put them in the basket.
How do we monitor without being overbearing?
Choose an activity that children would enjoy doing. Such activities include an art project or playing with Legos. … anything that would keep them entertained and that could happen in an open space. If the child is in the their room, you can tell them to leave the door opened. If it is an activity utilizing a computer, look at the browser history. If anything is alarming, have a conversation with the child regarding what you may have seen. If the browser history has been deleted, then that is very suspicious behavior.
Do we need to let parents of friends know our expectations?
If you are taking cell phones, I would discuss this with the parent of the friend just to make sure they do not feel like you are invading privacy. You can let your child know that it is okay for a friend to come over, but along with that comes certain responsibilities. When speaking to the parent of the friend, you could let them know you have certain safe guards and boundaries.
What signs might you look for in your children’s friends that maybe something isn’t ok at their home?
If there are unexplained injuries on the child’s body such as burns (cigarette, scalding water, iron). Also, injuries that are unusual for the child’s age or bruises that resemble objects such as hand, fist, belt buckle, or rope are cause for alarm. If the child is frightened by going home, fear of parent/caregiver, and their play includes abusive behavior or talk, these are signs to keep an eye on. If the injuries are located on shins, lower arms & legs, forehead, hips, elbows, ankles, or chin, remember that these may be accidental. If injuries are in upper arms, anterior thigh, trunk, face, ears, neck, or feet then it is highly suspicious. Other signs include: if child has inappropriate sexual knowledge for age, demonstrating sexual acts on other children or toys, coercing, manipulation, or forcing other children into sexual activity, major change in normal mood or behavior, and suicidal thoughts.
What can you do as a parent/guardian when you have concerns about any of the above signs?
If a child exhibits these behaviors and you are concerned, ask open-ended questions such as “Tell me about your bruise” or “I see you have a bruise, tell me what happened”. If the story is not consistent with injury, file a report on the Texas child abuse hotline or call 1-800-252-5400. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911. Any suspicion of child sexual abuse should be reported.
Anything else you would like to add?
Also, talk to children about “good secrets”. An example of a “good secret” is a surprise birthday party. The way I explain “good secrets” are that these are secrets that make you happy and safe. They do not hurt you or anyone else. Bad secrets are those that make you feel scared, nervous, worried, consist of threats and bribes, private parts (whether they are yours or someone else’s). “Bad secrets” also involve hurting, whether it be your child or someone else. If a friend tells them to keep a secret and it makes them feel this way, then it is a “bad secret” and needs to be told to a trusted adults. Help the child identify trusted adults and ensure them if they are not believed to continue telling until someone gets them the help they need.