Mothers hold a key role in the ongoing protection of children. The child who has experienced sexual abuse is at a higher risk of being re-abused. Therefore, it is critical to build into the structure of the child's life protective features to prevent further abuse. For a child suspected of being abused, intervention and skill development may potentially prevent abuse or bring awareness so that disclosure occurs more quickly.
An appellate court judge has issued a "wake up call" to mothers. She urges mothers to "keep their eyes open" and be "vigilant" in protecting their children. Suggestions and recommendations are included on the following pages in this website:
The home environment is critical in providing protection to children. Listed below are several areas in which mothers can increase the safety of their children.
- Structure and stability in the home
- Predictable schedule with continuous supervision
- Awareness or relationship with all adults with whom your child has contact
- Close supervision
- Rules and expectations regarding where child goes, with whom, how often
- Monitoring of computer use
- Honoring instinct and intuition regarding extended family members, friends, and strangers
- Open communication with child
- Discussion and development of safety plan with child
- Instruction in good touch and bad touch
- Limits on where child can go, whose home he can visit, and who must be present to supervise
Children also have internal protective factors. These can be developed and strengthened. Mothers can support their children in maintaining good health, managing their emotions, developing a positive set of friends, and developing healthy age-appropriate independence. Mothers can work with counselors and therapists who are teaching their children new skills, attitudes, and behaviors.
- Positive self-esteem - Counselor, parent, and child can work together in increasing the child's self-esteem. Certain factors serve as cornerstones for healthy self-esteem. These include:living with awareness (mindfulness), accepting thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; accepting responsibility; honesty; assertiveness; and experiencing meaning in life.
- Effective coping mechanisms - Coping skills can be taught. Options available during stress points in life, plans for specific, useful strategies that bring better outcomes.
- Good health - Regular check ups, dental visits, nutrition, exercise, sleep routines, proper hygiene, all contribute towards a sense of good health and well-being.
- Social skills - Deficits in the area of social skills can be addressed, with new skills added to the child's repertoire.
- Positive peer relationships - Opportunities for increasing peer group support, involvement in organizations that are supervised, such as Boy Scouts, and have fun and value components.
- Intelligence - Basic intelligence perhaps cannot be changed. However, school performance, enjoyment in school, and academic success can be improved with intervention, support, and accountability.
- Able to ask for help - Asking for help may require practice, but it is a needed skill in self-protection. Many times the answer lies outside the self of the victim or weaker party. Checking things out with a safe adult can serve to protect the child.
- Independence appropriate to age - Parents need to support self-efficacy - that sense of "can do" in a child or adult.
- Ability to regulate emotion - Emotion regulation can be improved through the use of a positive skill set.
Other family variables can be changed with professional intervention, such as alcohol and drug treatment, parenting classes, counseling, and other classes.
- Prosocial behavior of parent - Parents can receive alcohol and other drug treatment and classes/groups related to criminal behaviors.
- Secure attachment to caregiver - Parenting classes can address the ways that parents relate to children and the physical affection they provide.
- Structured household with rules and expectations - WIth assistance, parents are able to increase the physical safety of the home through increased structure and the addition of rules and expectations. Family meetings are useful in this regard.
- Extended family member involvement with children - Improved relationships with safe extended family members can be fostered.
- Positive relationship between child's parents - Couples counseling or family counseling can decrease the family tension level and improve relationships.
- Parental skill level in emotion regulation and stress management - Parents in parenting classes or other interventions can be taught effective skills to regulate emotions and stress.