Print Friendly and PDF

Trigger warning: This article contains a story and description of child sexual abuse.

The very thought of it makes us nauseous. The idea that a child—our child—could be sexually abused is so upsetting that we can't bear to think about it. But the devastating reality is that we must.

I had the honor of speaking to a mother who lived through this. She shared her story here: The story of her son who was sexually abused by his babysitter.

This mother's bravery, candidness and resolve humbled me deeply. And I'll be honest—it took me a long time to sit down and write this article. Because how on earth can you do justice to this family's experience?

The heart-breaking answer is that you can't.

There is nothing that can make this go away for this mother and her family. What we can do though—what she wants—is to share her story.

Since her experience, she has become an advocate, for her family and for others. We are so grateful for her insight on ways to feel empowered and protect your family. Here's what she shared:

1. We have to believe that it happens

Wrapping our minds around the possibility of something awful happening to our children is incredibly difficult. But the first step in preventing it is acknowledging that it could happen. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that one out of six boys and one of four girls are sexually abused as children. Eighty-four percent of incidents happen in the child's home, and as many as 95% of the abusers have prior relationships with the families.

The National Center for Victims of Crimes shares that it's also important to know that "child sexual abuse is not solely restricted to physical contact—such abuse could include noncontact abuse, such as exposure, voyeurism and child pornography."

Symptoms of child abuse may include genital discomfort or infection, difficult or painful bowel movements, or behavioral signs such as depression, anger, bed-wetting, nightmares, fear or sudden change in activity level.

The scope of this problem is huge. We simply cannot ignore it.

2. No secrets in our family

As abusers will often tell the child to keep their activities a secret, it's important to communicate—to everyone—that your family does not keep secrets. This means telling your children, and anyone who has contact with them, that "our family does not keep secrets."

Differentiate between surprises and secrets. Expert Jayneen Sanders told Motherly, "Talk about 'happy surprises' instead such as not telling Granny about her surprise birthday party. Compare this with 'unsafe' secrets such as someone touching their private parts. Make sure your child knows that if someone does ask them to keep an unsafe secret that they must tell someone."

3. Talk about it. To everyone. A lot.

It's normal to feel uncomfortable about this. Talking about sex, body parts and abuse is simply not something we are used to doing, and it feels awkward—especially when it involves our children. But we have to talk about it. All the time. The way to change the awkwardness of it is to just start.

It gets easier, and eventually, it just becomes second nature.

For the mom I spoke with, this means telling everyone who comes in contact with her kids that they are teaching their kids about body safety and that their family does not keep secrets.

She wrote, "Have this conversation with the adults at school (teachers, aides, principals, tutors), babysitters, your parents and in-laws, your siblings and cousins, camp counselors, parents of your kids' friends (yes, all of your kids' friends), and every other adult or teenager who has access to your kids."

4. Be loud and clear

The mother I spoke to said that one of the most important steps she has taken has been "to unambiguously communicate to everyone around [her] children that we are alert and vigilant and OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT PREY."

The Children's Assessment Center agrees, stating that "Perpetrators frequently seek out children who are particularly trusting and work proactively to establish a trusting relationship before abusing them."

An abuser is less likely to target a child when they know that the family has a firm "we don't keep secrets" policy, and when they know that the family openly and regularly talks about body safety and appropriate relationships.

5. Listen, truly listen

In our very busy lives, it's so easy to half-listen to our kids or dismiss what they are saying as innocent child-ramblings. And while it often is, children may also be trying to tell us something they don't understand or don't have the words to describe.

When your child speaks to you, listen. If something strikes you as unusual or off, dig deeper. You can seek professional help from a counselor to guide you through these conversations. If your alarm bell goes off, listen to it.

6. Teach body safety routinely

The mom wrote, "Body safety" is a concept you need to instill into your child as routinely as you teach them not to touch a hot stove or to look both ways before crossing the street. If you introduce it early enough, it won't even register to them as novel or unusual."

Jayneen Sanders explains that this means:

  • Teaching kids the real names for body parts
  • Talking about the difference between private and public parts of the body
  • Creating a safety network of three to five trusting adults children can talk to
  • Discussing feelings openly, including the feeling of being 'unsafe'
  • Empowering them to tell you when they do feel unsafe

Experts also recommend that we avoid using the terms 'good-touch/bad-touch,' because the truth is that sometimes, 'bad-touch' feels good to a child. Instead, use 'okay touch/not-okay touch,' or 'safe touch/not-safe touch.'

This is overwhelming and so hard to think about. The mom wrote, "If you're panicking right now about the things you haven't done, I'll tell you what the child abuse expert told us: It's never too late to start doing any of this."

So while it's uncomfortable and unknown, we just have to start. One conversation at a time. We have to listen, and we have to support each other. It's not easy. But it's so worth it.

If you or your child are in immediate danger, call 911, or visit The National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, you can learn about how to report it here.

If you have gone through this, please know that you are not alone. And it's not too late for you or your child either. There is help available to you. You can find a list of psychologists and counselors to help you here.

[Originally published June 4, 2018]

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

Is there anything cuter than adorable hairstyles on kids? We love when little ones look put together and a chic hairstyle is the icing on a cake.Mamas have upped their game and are delivering trendy, inspo-worthy looks beyond basic ponytails.

We get that creating no-fuss hairstyles (preferably ones that don't require toddlers sitting more than 10 minutes) isn't exactly stress-free and shelling out cash for a stylist isn't something we'll spring for. But we're all about easy styles that we can practically create with our eyes closed. Say hello to getting out the door faster! To be fair, there are a few here that are a tad complicated, so you'll want to screenshot them and share with your mama friend who is a master stylist.

FEATURED VIDEO

To help you nail the best kid hairstyles, we've compiled a list of 41 cool hairstyles for little ones from Instagram:

Pigtail buns

This classic style never gets old. If you're concerned about it being too light, loosen it up a bit by adding volume at the roots.






Criss-cross braids

Add a touch of style to a traditional braid.






Top knot

When rushing and don't have time, just throw up their hair in a top bun.



Side braided ponytail

After a few hours on the playground, braids tend to end up on the side of their heads, so why not create it into a style?



Cornrows

We're not going to front—cornrows are tough to create. But if you can get it, it's a style that will last weeks. Need help? Check out these YouTube videos.






Waterfall braids

To add a little more pizazz to a regular braid, braid hair on the side and loosen it a bit at the root.




Triple buns

A bun is probably the easier hairstyle a mama can create, but throw in a dash of style by adding two more bun. Create the look by securing buns from the top of the head to the nape of the neck.








Bun + bows

Add a bow for instant fun.









Lifestyle

When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) started making headlines in early 2020 the expert advice was simple: Don't panic.

This week the CDC warned that the outbreaks of the virus will very likely happen in the United States, but it's important to know that officials still don't want parents to panic, they just want us to be prepared.

"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday. "It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Messonnier said.

FEATURED VIDEO

It is totally normal to read this and be concerned mama, but there are several things we need to unpack before we let our anxiety overwhelm us.

Here is what you need to know about the Coronavirus response in the United States:

Top doctors are preparing for this

As the virus has spread rapidly overseas America's top doctors have been monitoring the situation. In not quite two months' time 80,000 people have contracted the illness and fewer than 3,000 of those people have died.

In the U.S., 53 cases have been confirmed (most of those were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan or people who caught the virus while traveling overseas). There have only been two cases of person-to-person transmission on U.S. soil, according to the CDC.

The CDC has more than 1,000 professionals working on the response to this virus, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, epidemiologists, veterinarians, laboratorians, communicators, data scientists and modelers.

"CDC staff members are working with state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments and other public health authorities to assist with case identification, contact tracing, evaluation of persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, and medical management of cases; and with academic partners to understand the virulence, risk for transmission, and other characteristics of this novel virus," the agency states on its website.

And while there have been delays in implementing Coronavirus testing measures in the Unites States, experts are working to resolve issues and make testing more efficient. As the New York Times reports, the health and human services secretary "told a Senate panel that federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers."

In other words, the experts in the United States are preparing to fight this virus and they want the American public to be prepared, too.

This could impact school, work and daily life

That's why the CDC is telling us to get ready, not to cause panic or anxiety but just to set the expectation that life could be disrupted by this virus. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing," Dr. Messonnier said Tuesday.

She says schools may have to close or otherwise adjust to an outbreak and students may have to start doing tele-schooling online. She also wants businesses to start preparing to hold meetings remotely rather than in-person and to encourage telecommuting during any outbreak. Community activities like sports and church may also have to be canceled or modified.

As the New York Times reports, "Scientists don't know who is most susceptible to the new coronavirus. Children seem less likely to be infected. Middle-aged men seem to have been disproportionately infected, according to some studies."

This could be really disruptive for families

It is true that the scenario Messonnnier is outlining could be really disruptive for families. No one wants this to happen, but if it does have to happen it's a good thing we are getting the heads up.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for possible interruptions to daily life:

  • Talk to your workplace about any plans it has for operations during an outbreak.
  • Speak to your child's school or childcare provider about how it plans to operate in a worst-case scenario.
  • Ask your doctor for an extra prescription of any medications your family needs, just in case an outbreak makes going to the pharmacy not possible.

Here's how to protect yourself + your family from the Coronavirus

The CDC does not recommend that we all go buy face masks. Face masks are only recommended for people "who show symptoms of COVID-19...[and] health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."

Instead, here's what we can all do to avoid the illness, according to the CDC:

  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe."

We know this is serious and kind of scary, mama. But please, don't panic. Know that pandemic experts are working to keep your family safe. According to the CDC, the "National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators are working on development of candidate vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19."

On Tuesday, President Trump said the coronavirus is "very well under control in our country" and "is going to go away." The health experts who work for the government are doing everything they can to prove the President right, but they do want the public to be ready in case it doesn't go away as fast as he (and all of us) would like.

News

For nine months, your mother was all you knew.

Before I held you in my arms, your mother held you and never let you go.

Before I sacrificed time for you, your mother gladly sacrificed her body.

Before I consoled you when you were upset, your mother consoled you with just the beat of her heart.

Before I comforted you when you were restless, your mother comforted you with just the sound of her voice.

Before I could do anything for you, your mother gave everything for you.

Your mother is the reason I hold you today.

Before you were even a twinkle in my eye, you were in your mother's heart. Your life, your safety, and your very existence depended on her. Something I'll never be able to repay.

FEATURED VIDEO

It will take a long time for you to understand the weight, the depth and the immeasurability of your mother's love for you. But someday, when you have children of your own, you will understand what I now see so clearly.

So, I'll hold you tight. But I'll hold your mother tighter because my love for you grows the more I understand the measure of a mother's love.


This essay was previously published here.
Life

What would bath time be without rubber duckies? Probably not as much fun—but also a whole lot cleaner, according to a study published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

That's because it turns out those squeaky toys are far from squeaky clean thanks to “potentially pathogenic bacteria" in four out of the five bath toys examined by researchers.

For the study, Swiss and American researchers looked at the biofilm communities inside 19 bath toys collected from random households as well as six toys used in controlled clean or dirty water conditions. They found that all of the examined bath toys “had dense and slimy biofilm" on their inner surfaces. What's more, 56% of the real-use toys and all of the dirty-water toys had fungi build up. ?

FEATURED VIDEO

Although the researchers note exposure to bacteria and fungi may have some benefits, the strong existence of grime in bath toys is still concerning. They note, “Squeezing water with chunks of biofilm into their faces (which is not unexpected behavior for these users) may result in eye, ear, wound or even gastro-intestinal tract infections."

Besides tossing all your bath toys, what can parents do?

The researchers say more experimental work is needed. But, for starters, it doesn't hurt to remove water from the toys after usage or give them a good, regular dunk in boiling water. The researchers also said they would like to see more regulations on the polymeric materials used for many bath toys.

There is, however, one simple solution—it just comes at the cost of rubber duckie's squeak. “In fact, the easiest way to prevent children from being exposed to bath toy biofilms is to simply close the hole," the researchers say of toys like this water-tight duck. “But where is the fun in that?"

[A version of this post originally appeared April 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

News
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.