Now that you've provided mandatory training for your staff and volunteers and invited your parents to join your accountability team, it's time to empower the children in your care. Educating and empowering children to experience a life free from sexual abuse is a multi-step process that unfolds as they mature and includes the five key components listed below. Depending on the type of programs your organization offers, you may or may not have the opportunity to engage children in all five components but at a minimum, every organization should be empowering children with the boundaries you have established.
- Respect Healthy Boundaries: Tell kids the boundaries that stop grooming behaviors and empower them to expect the boundaries to be honored
- Talk about Sex and Sexual Abuse: Help kids embrace healthy sexuality and teach them the language of abuse, giving them permission to tell
- Have a Heart for Others: Develop in them a compassionate heart for others who are hurting
- Recognize Healthy Peer Relationships: Equip them to create healthy relationships with peers
- Establish Healthy Relationships with Younger Children: Prepare them to manage their own behavior and boundaries with younger children and to recognize concerning behavior in others
The vast majority of the boundaries set forth in this program are designed to be managed by staff, volunteers and parents collectively, especially during the preschool years. However, there are a number of boundaries that could be broken without another adult's knowledge. Therefore, kids need to be empowered by knowing what those boundaries are and instilling in them the expectation that they will be honored.
Boundaries that protect kids from sexual abuse in youth serving organizations are no different than boundaries or safety rules in other areas of their lives. When a child says they're going to go outside and ride their bike, we naturally respond by saying "Make sure you wear your helmet and stay out of the street." We don't go into gory detail about mangled bodies that would traumatize them but we do make sure they know how to put their helmet on and where the sidewalk ends and the street begins (the boundary). In the same way, we don't have to provide kids details about sexually inappropriate acts when we're talking with them about boundaries.
Empowering kids to hold others accountable for honoring these boundaries is as easy as 1-2-3!
- Tell kids the boundaries
- Tell kids to remind anyone who forgets a boundary
- Tell kids to tell their parents and another staff member or volunteer when someone forgets