Child Safety is something we take very seriously at Christ Church. We not only want our services to be a safe place, but also to instruct our community on how they can be proactive in protecting children. This is not just for caregivers. Protection is a community project. Our kids are worth it!
First, I want to recommend this resource. God Made All of Me https://www.amazon.com/dp/1942572301/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_hdrIzbZN1XSF8. We’ve gone through it with our kids and it is super helpful in teaching them how to appreciate how God made them and to feel empowered to have boundaries for their bodies.
Here are a few other key principles taken from a training I attended:
1. Don’t allow secrets
Predators work by starting to get your children comfortable with keeping secrets. It might start out as giving candy and saying, “Don’t tell your parents.” The more your child learns not to tell you things the more of a target they become. Don’t allow secrets of any kind to be kept, even if they are perfectly innocent. When we have our kids buy gifts for each other, we explain how that isn’t a secret, but a surprise. Surprises always get found out. Secrets don’t and they only hurt. We talk about this almost on a weekly basis and regularly ask our kids if anyone has asked them to keep a secret. We don’t make a big deal about it. We just have it as a regular part of what we talk to our kids about. So far, we’ve only found out about a lot of little crushes. But we want to have that rhythm built in. If anyone says “Don’t tell your parents. It’s a secret.” It doesn’t matter if they are family or friends, encourage your kids to tell. And never ask ask a child to keep a secret. You might think it is cute to help them sneak a snack or something like that, but your innocent actions are making a vulnerability in them.
2. Teach them about boundaries
Children should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about their bodies. However, they need to understand that there are boundaries about what is and isn’t private. Encourage dressing in privacy and taking baths by themselves (unless they are in bathing suits).
3. Let them make their own boundaries
While we want our kids to be respectful to others it should be totally fine for them to not shake hands, give hugs or kisses to people if they don’t want to. They need to know that no one can tell them what to do with their body. Even if it is a family member that you totally trust, by forcing your kids to give “Aunt So and So” a hug, you are teaching them that they need to do things, even if they are uncomfortable. Predators target kids who have loose physical boundaries and who don’t stop them as they get more and more physical.
4. Use correct anatomical language
It might sound cute to talk about winkies, hush hushes, etc…, but you are robbing your child of the ability to know what their body actually is. Made up body parts teaches dissociation which allows predators to move in. Also, if your child doesn’t know the names of their body parts, then they can’t tell you if they ever are touched inappropriately. Studies show that if a child speaks with anatomically correct language, predators are far less likely to target them, because they fear a child that is educated.
5. Ask questions
Have it be a regular part of your relationship with your kids that you ask them questions that could uncover potential abuse. Here are some suggestions:
- Has anyone, even in our family, asked you to do something lately that has made you feel uncomfortable?
- Has anyone asked you to keep a secret?
- Do you know that you can tell me anything and that I will always love you? Is there anything you’d like to tell me?
6. Be a safe person
We all want to think that our children trust us and would tell us immediately if something happened to them. Sadly, that is often not the case. Predators will tell your child that you will get mad at them if they tell you. They will do whatever they can to drive a wedge between you and your child. You need to regularly affirm for your child that they can tell you anything and that they will never get in trouble for telling the truth. Make sure your actions follow through on that. Our children learn far more from what our actions say than what our words say. Do whatever you can to build trust with them and to show them that they can feel confident to speak to you. Don’t come down on them for what they might disclose, but celebrate honesty.
7. Be aware of our church’s child protection policies.
We want to make our Sunday service as safe as possible for each and every one of our children.
- Per PA Law every Christ Church Kid’s volunteer is background checked at the state and federal level and undergoes FBI fingerprinting. Sadly many places stop simply at this requirement. However, most of the occurrences of child abuse are from perpetrators who pass a background check. So while this is a good step to take, by itself it is not adequate.
- No Christ Church Kids volunteer is ever to be alone with a child. Two adults must be present at all times. This might make bathroom runs more cumbersome and require us to have more adults in each class. But I’d rather have us work through the headache of finding more volunteers so that this policy can be implemented, than put a child in an at risk situation.
- Every child is assigned a badge that has a unique number on it and a card with the corresponding number is given to their caregiver. Only someone with that card is allowed to pick up the child from Christ Church Kids.
- Our policies can only do so much. The biggest key to protection is creating a culture where all adults are on alert and on the same page as it comes to our children’s safety. To that end, we will continue to provide education to each new child care worker, as well as review safety steps with the entire congregation from time to time. Many eyes make a safe place.
Now, God would not be honored if this post only succeeded in making you fearful. Ultimately, we must trust the Lord must with our children. However, God would also not be honored if we did not vigilantly seek to protect the precious lives that he has given us to raise. I hope this post helps you consider how you can be vigilant.
Grace and peace,