Summertime Risks for Abuse

Did you know that incidences of child abuse, specifically sexual abuse, are the highest during the summer months?

Kids out of school are often under the supervision of new caregivers, who may not provide the necessary watchfulness to keep children out of harm’s way or may even be abusive themselves. Reports of child abuse typically increase in the fall when kids return to school and disclose cases of abuse that have occurred over the summer to a trusted teacher or classmate.

Children often know and trust their perpetrators, who will persuade, bribe or trick them to engage in inappropriate sexual acts. A daycare facility, private caregiver’s home or a sleepover at someone’s house are often cited as places where abuse has occurred. Parents should always be mindful of who their children are interacting with, but especially vigilant during the summer when their normal routine has changed and different adults come into their child’s life.

Keeping your child safe

Protecting your kids from abuse starts with knowing the adults that become a part of their day. Here are few tips to safeguard your children:

  • Do your research when choosing a childcare provider. Make sure your provider is licensed, get personal recommendations and ask any questions you think are necessary for you to feel confident that you have a qualified person taking care of your child.
  • Understand your child’s daily schedule while under the care of someone else. Are they always in groups or with multiple caregivers throughout the day? Make sure children are not left alone with individual staff members and instead are among other children and providers throughout the day.
  • Ask all babysitters, camp directors, daycare workers, coaches, etc. for copies of references or background checks. Request this information not just from staff members, but from volunteers too.

The more information and background checking you do, the more likely you are to turn up anything that seems amiss.

Helping kids keep themselves safe

It is vital to communicate with your children about what is considered inappropriate behavior by adults (or other children.) The American Academy of Pediatrics makes these age appropriate recommendations:

18 months Begin teaching the proper name for body parts.

3-5 years Talk to children about their “private parts” and how to say “no!” if they ever feel uneasy with someone’s touch. Make sure they understand that they should always tell you if they are being hurt or made to feel uncomfortable by anyone – including relatives or neighbors.

5-8 years Discuss the difference between good and bad touches. Encourage clear and consistent personal boundaries including privacy with body parts. Explain that “games” that involve their body should never be kept secret. Talk about how to keep themselves safe outside your home.

8-12 years Teach the importance of personal safety and how to respond and get away from inappropriate touching. Provide examples and discuss rules around sexual conduct. Explain that talking about abuse is critical even if it makes someone feel uncomfortable, upset or embarrassed.

13-18 years Continue to discuss personal safety and family rules about sexual conduct. Stress the importance of safety in regards to online devices and social media. Talk about what makes a healthy relationship and the importance of consent in regards to sexual interactions.

Child abuse is a topic parents often don’t want to even think about, let alone discuss with their children. But keeping kids safe from perpetrators requires that you know exactly who is caring for them, and also equipping your child with the tools to take care of themselves. Remember that all children, girls and boys, are potential targets and it is never their fault when an adult behaves inappropriately. Let your children know that they have a right to always say “no” to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. And if you are ever concerned about any child being abused, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance and contact the local Child Protective Services agency in your county.

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