Friday, May 01, 2009

Loving Safely

Because I am involved with a group home that serves abused and neglected children, protecting my own children from the scars of abuse is at the forefront of my mind. As a result of hearing so many of these stories I am also very aware that most abuse happens as a crime of convenience, at the hands of someone who has knowledge of and access to the children they victimize.  This has made discussions about personal safety a bit tricky. I want to protect my children--but that includes their innocence. I don't want to tell them too much.

The best resource I have found so far has been The Safe Side dvd. It is an entertaining approach that divides the world into three categories: Don't Knows, Kinda Knows, and Safe Side Adults. This was a terrific approach until my children started to really grasp what I have been teaching them about loving others. Now they want to know why our homeless friend, Nellie, can't come to our house. We love her like God says, right? And, is so-and-so's father is a Safe Side adult? Why not?

My children want to put everyone into boxes of "bad guy," "good guy," "friend," or don't know." I am left struggling to explain how we can obey the command to love everyone, yet be safe at the same time. There is no easy explanation. People, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) don't come with labels of friend or enemy. Sometimes they trick us...but I don't want to get into all that right now.

I want my children to love not judge books by their be light in darkness...but I also want them to be safe.  I am not sure that is possible. 

So, I pray for wisdom to navigate these tricky waters. I entrust them to their Creator who loves them infinitely more than I do. I pray for His protection and discernment to surround them and permeate their lives. And then I trust Him to do as I have prayed.


Love Being a Nonny said...

We had our own private *code word* in our family. In case they weren't quite sure if someone was suppose to pick them up from somewhere or if the man talking to them to try to get them to go with him was a *bad guy*...they were to ask the code word. Ours was POPCORN. I even tried it out on one of them one worked!!

Love that you are striving to trust Him as you have prayed.

Tonya said...

I have been processing this exact same thing since the day I conceived my first child. Having been abandoned by my birth father, sexually abused by my adopted father and neglected by my mother, I know how complicated it is to discern safe from unsafe (unfortunately, family members are sometimes not safe).

I do a lot of work with women recovering from sexual abuse and also do some work educating adults about child abuse prevention and recognition... My oldest son started asking questions about my family when he was 4 years old (noticed that Daddy's family was always around but not Mommy's). We have had numerous discussions with him about my family and their "bad decisions" and the fact that they are "not safe" to be alone with. He directly asked me one day what I do with the women I work with and why.. I explained their pain and the hope and healing found in Jesus Christ. As for why... I explained that someone "touched Mommy under her panties" and knows the hurt these women are feeling and the peace and healing God can provide (I have not told him yet that my father was my abuser). After I answered what and why, he put his hand out to hold mine (he's FIVE), told me it sounds a lot like prayer and said that what I do is very nice. What a precious little boy.

We are careful to explain that some people make really bad decisions, sometimes hurting others. He will refer to them as "bad guys" and we try our best to explain that they are not necessarily "bad" people but that they are not making good choices that honor God. My son knows that I love my parents and grieve the lost relationships... I frequently share happy childhood memories, not just the bad stuff.

These are all very difficult discussions to have.. I applaud you for having them! So many parents just say nothing since they don't know what to say.

Darkness to Light has an awesome child abuse prevention class called Stewards of Children. There is probably a class near you! If not, their "Seven Steps" manual is available online. Great info about how to recognize, prevent and respond to abuse. The discussion time during class generally leads to ideas of how to talk to your children about the dangers or someone's personal experience with child abuse.

Maria(h) said...

And let's not leave out that sixth sense we have. We need to teach our children to trust theirs. If ever there's a funny feeling in the tummy, something ain't right!