Important to talk to kids about sexual abuse

It is alarming that child sexual abuse cases are on the rise (Spike in child sex abuse cases over last three years; April 16).

Focus on the Family Singapore affirms the stepping up of efforts to train more professionals and educate the public on child protection, family violence and the need for intervention.

We also agree that parents should discuss sexuality issues and sexual abuse with their children at the earliest possible time.

Many parents, however, are uncomfortable with broaching these topics with their young ones. But the cost of not addressing such issues might be devastatingly higher, so discomfort is a small price to pay to protect children from such harm.

Parents can begin this important conversation by scheduling a fixed time to sit down with their children to discuss these issues.

They can start by explaining to the child that every part of his body is good, but some body parts are private.

Using the proper names, like penis and vagina, for these private body parts to help the child to identify them is important, as this allows the child to understand the private parts correctly and talk about them with their parents, if the need arises.

Parents should also explain to their children that private body parts are not to be touched by others - except by the parents when they bathe and dress the children, and by doctors during medical examinations.

If the child is not old enough to understand this, teach him that the parts of the body covered by a swimsuit are private areas that others cannot touch.

Tell the child that he must and can always let his parents know if anyone touches him in those private areas, or any other part in a way that makes him feel uncomfortable.

Emphasise to the child that this is regardless of who the person is, even if it is a family member, relative, neighbour or teacher, or what the person says to him.

Parents should assure their children that they will not get into any trouble or be punished if they have been inappropriately touched.

Instead, parents must make it clear that they will be proud of their children for telling them, and that they will help them through the situation.

There are other steps that parents can take to take this conversation further.

What is of utmost urgency and importance is for parents to start this important talk with their children, so as to responsibly protect them from sexual abuse.

Sarah Chua (Ms)

Parenting Specialist

Focus on the Family Singapore