School Horror Stories Bring Out Parental Fears

girl in a bubbleThe news has been particularly terrifying for parents of school-age kids lately with case after case of sexual abuse being reported. Recently in Los Angeles a teacher was accused of the most unimaginable sex abuse crimes against children in the classroom; and this week a teacher's aide in New York was arrested for making child pornography on school grounds. I could go on and on, but it's too heartbreaking. What I really want to know is how do we protect our children from evil monsters like this out there in the world? Can we?

I've said before that it's stories like these that will prevent me from ever being a free-range parent. Philosophically I want to let go, but emotionally I can't. Of course, we can't wrap our kids up and bubble wrap, and for most of us, we have no choice but to send them into the schools. But do we really have to just wait and take our chances that they may be a victim? Are there ways we can help minimize their odds without smothering them with our efforts?

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These are the questions I play in my head repeatedly. The answers aren't as forthcoming. Experts offer some preventative measures that we all should embrace. Stop It Now offers some tips on talking to children and teens about sexual abuse. They suggest things like using concrete examples of abuse, not forcing children to do things that make them uncomfortable physically (like hugging relatives if they don't want to), and explaining about how adults can trick children into thinking things are okay, but they're not. The organization also lists some warning signs to look for in adults who spend time with children that are helpful.

But is any of that enough? I don't know. I wonder if the families of the victims we see in the headlines did these things. My guess is that at least some of them did, and it still didn't save their children. 

The truth is that nothing we do is going to guarantee that our children aren't victims. We can only do so much, and hope for the best -- just like with most aspects of life. It's just all the more difficult when it comes to our kids.

What steps do you take to protect your children?


Image via Nebbish1/Flickr

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