Safeguarding your children against sexual abuse
With frequent PCS moves, crowded bases, and deployments, the nature of military life can make finding trustworthy childcare a challenge. Andrea Merrell-Woods, CFAY’s supervisory advocacy clinical counselor, offers some tips for helping parents ensure they are safeguarding their children from sexual abuse amidst an often-changing community.
1. Be involved. ““Quality time is very important, where you’re spending time finding out, ‘What did you do today? How was school? Who are your friends?’ Making sure they know 100% that you’re interested in what’s going on with them,” said Merrell-Woods, speaking from her office in the Fleet and Family Support Counseling Center.
2. “Know who is around your children.” While finding a babysitter on short notice from the unofficial Yokosuka Babysitters Facebook page may be tempting with a sense of security felt on military bases, protect your child by only hiring babysitters you have references for or have had the time to personally interview. Merrell-Woods suggested taking a potential babysitter on errands with children to observe interactions and being sure your expectations are clearly communicated.
3. Take advantage of on-base resources. The Child Development Center offers occasional evening care for date nights (243-3219), and Child Development Homes (243-5478) are often available for drop-in care.
4. Foster a sense of trust with your child. “We have to believe them. Children don’t typically lie about that,” Merrell-Woods said, stressing the importance that children feel comfortable sharing any information with a parent and understand what is inappropriate touching in an age-appropriate manner. While discussing child sexual abuse with your child may be awkward, making sure they are able to recognize abuse is important.
5. Work to build a support network and family community as you arrive to each new duty station so stress does not overtake parenting responsibilities or lead to rash childcare decisions. “Parenting is the toughest job you could ever have. But what a privilege, because we are molding the people of the next generations,” said Merrell-Woods.
Visit RAINN.org for additional resources on preventing child sexual abuse. Contact the Fleet and Family Support Center for counseling resources: 243-3372