After news broke Friday about a Farmington Public Schools substitute teacher facing a charge of criminal sexual conduct, school officials released an email filled with tips to help families cope with the news.
The email advised "safety first", keeping the conversation general, unless the child brings up specifics. The email also recommends limiting exposure to media reports and adult conversations about the incident.
- Remind your child that adults are doing everything possible to keep them from harm; describe what steps are in place to keep children safe
- Teach your child “Good Touch / Bad Touch”; that NO ONE is allowed to touch private parts (any parts that would be covered by a bathing suit) or in a manner that makes children feel uncomfortable. Explain “no one” includes relatives, teachers or even medical personnel unless the parent has given permission
- Teach your child “NO! Go, Tell”; to yell out loudly “NO!” if they are approached, GO away without kicking or punching, and immediately TELL a trusted adult.
When talking with a child about sexual abuse:
- Don’t ask leading questions - questions that assume an answer within the question itself, e.g., “Were you more scared or more angry?” implies the child was both scared and angry when they might not have felt either feeling.
- Allow your child to express their feelings and thoughts free from coercion and expectation.
- Be aware of your own reactions and don’t allow anxiety, anger and helplessness to trickle down to your child.
- Be calm and reassuring; shield your child from your own emotions.
- If your child becomes overwhelmed, take a break from the conversation and return to it when your child is ready.
- Do use age appropriate language.
- Do teach your child to speak in “I-statements” (i.e. I feel afraid because I know this would be awful if it happened to me or someone I know). Encourage your child to disclose information.
- Do help your child to know that they are not in trouble. This is a learning experience and this is how we keep everyone safe.
- Do speak in a matter of fact and non-judgmental manner.
- Do state that there can be more conversation about this topic in the future.
- Do avoid details and graphic description of abuse.
- Remind your child not to talk to strangers.
- Teach your child that there should be NO SECRETS.
- Do not force your child to speak.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
- Sleep disturbance; nightmares
- Changes in eating
- Anxiety-especially with strangers, body image, sudden new fears
- Seeming to know more about sex than has been taught
- Refusal to go to school
- Curiosity about sex; sexual acting out
- Aggressiveness; sudden acting out behaviors
- Suicidal ideations
- Mood swings
- Sexually transmitted disease diagnosis
- Drop in school performance
- Lack of concentration
- Sudden lying
- Care House
- Michigan Dept. of Human Services
- Common Ground
- New Oakland
- HAVEN - What is sexual assault?
The District also recommends these books to begin a discussion with your children:
- “Bobby and Mandee's Good Touch Bad Touch” Robert Kahn
- “Trouble with Secrets” Karen Johnson
- “My Body is Mine, My Feelings Are Mine” Susan Hoke
- “Not in Room 204” Shannon Riggs
- “The Right Touch” Sandy Kelve