Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mindfulness

 

Second graders have been starting a new unit during their counselor visits with Miss Jen.  We are studying about being mindful.  This means we are practicing how to attend to the here and now in a considerate, nonjudgmental way so we can think before we act and make good decisions.

What is most exciting is that students have been learning about three parts of the human brain: 1) the prefrontal cortext, 2) the amygdala, and 3) the hippocampus.  They know that our amygdala is the "security guard" of our brain and triggers big emotions when we are scared or threatened so we can act to protect ourselves.  They also know that letting this part of our brain run the show all of the time is not a good idea because we will react without thinking and likely do something we will later regret.  It is better to calm ourselves down so our prefrontal cortex can do its job to help us make sound decisions.  It is our "wise leader."  Second graders also understand that the hippocampus is our "saver of memories."

When someone in your house over reacts or acts impulsively, talk about how the response was unmindful.  When someone settles themselves and thinks things through instead of acting impulsively, talk about how that is a mindful way to be.  We are all unmindful sometimes and owning this with our kids can be a teachable moment for everyone!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

In her book entitled Identifying Child Molesters, Carla Van Dam (2001) detailed eight tips to help parents set boundaries that prevent childhood sexual abuse. Here are brief descriptions of her suggestions.

1) “Child molesters are charming. Listen to the content of what individuals say. Do not be mesmerized by the delivery.”  Offenders manipulate conversations so that caregivers hear what they want to hear. Not every charming person is an abuser,but the more we think for ourselves, the better off we will be in a variety of situations.

2) “If something looks too good to be true, the price tag is hidden. DO NOT ACCEPT HELP FROM THOSE WHO SEEMINGLY WANT NOTHING IN RETURN.” When we’re desperate for help, we are at risk because we feel indebted to those who help us. We may put up with inappropriate behaviors because we think, “I shouldn’t make a big deal out of this after all he/she has done for me.” Instead, build a support system where “trading help” is expected.

3) “Children need adult involvement, guidance, and direction, NOT a big playmate.” Perpetrators groom children by giving them what they want, siding with them in arguments, and treating them like peers. When adults act like children or teenagers, pay close attention.

4) “Look out for adults who primarily interact with children, not peers.” Many people enjoy working with children, but they still have healthy adult relationships. When adults get all their needs met through relationships with children, it is cause for concern.

5) “Do not tolerate wrestling, tickling, massaging, and touching games.” Is every person who wrestles and plays with kids an abuser? No, but the majority of sexual perpetrators groom children through these games because it is an easy way to blur boundaries. By limiting such activities, abusers won’t have an opportunity to start the grooming process.

6) “Worry when someone is instantly accorded family or insider status.” Molesters ever so slightly cross social boundaries with such ease that others assume their behavior must be acceptable. Things like failing to knock on doors or not waiting for permission before coming in are not horrible behaviors, but they make most of us uncomfortable. We may find it confusing and then feel too embarrassed to say anything. Sometimes we wonder, “Is it just me? No one else seems bothered by this. I need to let it go.” Trust yourself! Say something!

7) “Run when NO is ignored.” Setting clear boundaries and making sure they are honored each and every time is essential to keeping kids safe. Many initial boundary violations carried about by molesters are relatively harmless. For instance, well intentioned individuals accept and give hugs to children who trust them. If a child doesn’t want a hug, though, safe individuals will respect that wish. When a child’s wish for boundaries or your expectations for clear boundaries are ignored, the situation is serious. Speak up about anything that makes you uncomfortable, even if it seems “harmless.” If you make a habit of letting even little things go, molesters will see you as someone who is easy to manipulate, and your children could become targets.

8) “Stand firm. Do not be intimidated.” When sex offenders are confronted, they blame anyone but themselves for their inappropriate choices. Ahead of time, they prepare for getting caught and work hard to make others feel guilty for even bringing up the subject. Do not let this stop you. Let others know what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to your children. Be a broken record. Do not be intimidated by justification or blame.

The majority of children are not sexually abused, and we hope your children never are, but should your child tell you about abuse, listen. Know that it is extremely rare for a child to make up abuse allegations. Take action and seek help from professionals.

Importantly, not everyone who takes interest in our children or who breaks minor social rules is a child abuser. As adults, it is our responsibility, though, to teach people how to treat us and how to treat our children. People who have our children’s best interests at heart will listen to “NO,” respect the limits we set, and change their behavior accordingly. Perpetrators work hard to skirt around any boundaries we set. By standing firm, we send strong messages to potential perpetrators that they need not waste their time trying to groom our children because we refuse to be fooled by charm or intimidation.

(Source: Van Dam, C. (2001). Identifying child molesters: Preventing child sexual abuse by recognizing the patterns of the offenders. New York: Haworth Press.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013