From all of us at the Darkness to Light office, we hope you are staying safe and protected from COVID-19.
The impact of the coronavirus is being felt across the world, and we know it may be difficult to maintain your normal child protective steps while adapting to the ever-changing environment. Your child’s school has been canceled (maybe even for weeks!) and there is a coronavirus quarantine, but you still have to go to work. What do you do? Of course, best practice suggests that you prescreen your childcare providers, check references, and hold a pre-sitting “interview” to get to know them and their skillset. But during this temporary “new normal,” that simply may not be possible.
Here are some protective steps you can still take to keep your child as safe as possible:
- Protecting Children During a Crisis: We need to be prepared to continue protecting kids to the best of our ability under any circumstances. The Protecting Children During a Crisis online training is designed to help you navigate through the unusual circumstances you might face during times of crisis. It will help you consider your current strategies, help you identify the new situation, and help you change your strategy. You can access it online at no cost by registering here.
- Talk to your kids: A quick lesson in proper handwashing can turn into a chat about body safety, or any topic that contributes to meaningful discussion together. These conversations help build a sense of trust, safety, and reliance in children. For more information or strategies for talking with kids, you can access our 30-minute “Talking with Children” online training at no charge by registering here and using code Talk2020.
- Talk to organizations that take care of your children: Discuss safety procedures with any organizations that are still operating children’s programs. Asking about COVID-19 safety procedures can be a great segue into discussing sexual abuse protection policies. You may want to review our “Step Up and Speak Out: Parent’s Guide to Selecting Youth Serving Organizations” One Sheet, which is available as a free download.
- In a bind for a babysitter? During this difficult time, it’s been so inspiring to see communities coming together to help each other. Even if your child is being watched by someone trusted, such as a neighbor, friend, or family member, keep in mind the second of the 5 Steps to Protecting Children™: Minimize Opportunity. More than 80% of sexual abuse cases occur in isolated, one-on-one situations. By being aware of three main principles: prevent isolation, keep situations interruptible, and set expectations, you can dramatically reduce the risk of sexual abuse. Above all, be clear with both the sitter and your kids about the family rules so that everyone understands the expectations and knows how to speak up if they aren’t met.
- Preventing Isolation: Make a rule that doors must be open at all times. Encourage activities and behaviors that include the whole group and discourage individual pursuits. Consider making certain areas of the house off-limits while you’re away, like basements or bedrooms.
- Keeping Situations Interruptible: Make sure the sitter knows that you’ll be checking in with the kids – it may even be a good idea to circle back by the house and drop in while you’re supposed to be out. You could also ask a “safe” neighbor or family member to drop by unannounced for you. Confirm boundaries with your kids and remind them that if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable, they can tell you. A phone call is a quick way to check-in and gauge the situation.
- Setting Expectations: Ask the sitter to come over early so you can speak to them and set expectations. Let the sitter know that your kids know about body safety and boundaries and that you don’t keep secrets from each other. Being upfront with this information can often be a deterrent to inappropriate behavior.
More information on minimizing opportunity in unexpected scenarios can be found in this blog post. Just as COVID-19 can be prevented by hand-washing and social-distancing, child sexual abuse can be prevented by taking a few simple, pre-emptive steps.
For more infomration on preventing child abuse when children are out of school, check out our partner Monique Burr Foundation’s post here.
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