How do we educate our kids about boundaries and personal safety while helping them maintain their innocence? It can be done! This week's episode will dive into some tools Kimberly Perry has created to empower parents and kids as we navigate through a hypersexual world. At the end, I will share some of my challenging childhood experiences that are now empowering me to be the best mom and children's advocate I can be.
Wouldn’t it be great if we were all a little more like little children? Not that I want more rowdy, and disrespectful or disobedient people in the world. But kids have some great qualities that as parents, we can emulate. Children naturally trust. They are without guile. When we teach them truth, they don’t doubt or overanalyze. They are ready and willing to give their love. They are humble and submissive.
But, these are the very reasons they are so vulnerable to dangers like inappropriate screentime (meaning too much or for the wrong reasons), They have not developed the ability to discern between what they want and what they need. They want to play video games, but they need fresh air and exercise… They want to watch youtube videos, but they need to make connections through eye contact and interaction with loved ones.
Their instinct to trust makes them vulnerable to predators because they believe the lies they are told - whether that’s about wrong being right, or about how no one will believe them, or they are a bad person.
So how do we help them maintain their innocence, without perpetuating their ignorance? Turns out, there’s a night and day difference between the two. We can educate our kids about right and wrong while maintaining, and even increasing their innocence. On the other hand, if we don’t eliminate their ignorance by educating them we are threatening their innocence.
So today, Kimberly Perry, from We Stand Guard, and I are going to talk about how to address boundaries and personal safety with our kids. I think this is so important because sometimes we don’t even know how to talk about the birds and the bees with our kids, and that is so so basic, let alone all the violence and the trauma that can come from misusing sexuality.
Before the recording, Kim and I were talking about how there are a lot of myths about this subject like, “that just happens to those people over there,” or “that kind of family.” But it has nothing to do with education, occupation, ethnicity, religion, income, etc. Because of the internet, which is often the origin, we’re all vulnerable to it in various ways. So it’s better to be aware. As Kimberly said, ‘We don’t have to live there. We don’t have to eat, sleep, and breathe this subject. We just need to bring it into all the things we’re doing to raise a family.” Just like we teach our kids to look both ways before we cross the street, teach them about boundaries.
So let’s jump in.
Conversation with Kimberly
Kimberly has really figured some things out, and I am so grateful she is so passionate about this subject so we can all benefit from that.
So I have debated for a few months whether to open up and share something very personal with all of you. It’s been a tough decision, but I can’t stop thinking about how my story might help someone else. So I’m going to go for it.
I was abused by another child when I was about 9 years old. Because I blamed myself, it was almost three decades before I realized I had been a victim. I dealt with the trauma of that event for years and didn’t say a word to a soul. I knew what had happened was wrong and I blamed myself. I struggled with feelings of shame and low self-worth for too long. Finally when I was a young adult I remember having an intense conversation with God about it. I told Him I was sorry, and then, because I really didn’t understand the nature of victimization at the time, and God knew the timing wasn’t right for me to process it, He graciously and tenderly took the entire memory from me.
About 18 years later, after becoming involved in the field of sexual exploitation prevention, the groundwork had been laid for me to understand my experience. So one night, in January, I was standing in my bathroom brushing my teeth while reading a book written by a woman who was sexually abused as a child by another child. I was not even through the first chapter when all of a sudden, something I read brought it all back. I froze as the memory and everything it might mean came rushing in on me. In that moment I knew as clear as day, that I was a victim. Because a child, based on their biological and neurological development, cannot consent to sexual experiences. Even the law recognizes that - children by legal definition - are always the victim if a sexual interaction takes place. Considering a child a willing participant is like saying a child wanted to get hit by a car if they crossed the street without looking. We would never blame a child for that.
So that night, standing in my bathroom, was the very first time I had applied that label to myself, and it felt valid, yet foreign. I saw the whole experience from a new perspective. My husband, brushing his teeth next to me, recognized the change in my countenance and asked, “are you ok?” He saw that my mind was going a million miles a minute and all I could say was, “I just remembered something.” We finished brushing and the weight of the memory pulled me to the floor where I sat and shared the whole thing with him.
For the last few months I have spent many hours analyzing my experience and trying to understand its impact on me. According to the author of the book I was reading that night, every victim she knows has struggled with suicidal thoughts and mental health issues. I have wondered, “does that explain my self-loathing when I was a teenager?” If you could step inside my mind when I was 15 years old, you would see a place of darkness and horror. It still hurts to think about it. There were days when I thought the only way I could feel relief was to practice self-harm like cutting, or making myself go hungry. I don’t blame my 9 year old experience for all of my mental and emotional struggles over the course of my life, but I know it plays a part.
My heart goes out to my mom who was the most intentional parent I’ve ever known. I did my best to push her away, but she was always there, a constant presence whether I liked it or not. She did her best to educate me AND keep me innocent. She taught me lovingly and openly about sexuality and the sacredness of my body. I think if she had asked me, “Has anyone ever touched you in a way that made you feel uncomfortable?” I might have lied and said no because I felt guilty. But if she had asked me again and again and again and again, I think I would have eventually said yes. I think at some point she would have caught me at a time when I was ready to disclose, and because she had laid a foundation of open communication, I would know I could trust her to react in a loving supportive way.
My mom absolutely did the best she could. I really believe there’s no way she could have prevented my abuse with the knowledge and understanding she had at the time. So I can’t go back and change my history. But I can use it to empower my parenting. I can have these conversations with my kids. I can help them understand victimization so they don’t feel plagued by unfounded shame if things like this ever happen to them. And in my advocacy, I can apply my new understanding. I can recognize that the child who did these things to me was also a victim. There are some behaviors children just couldn’t or wouldn’t do without being introduced to it by someone else, whether that’s through pornography, or an older predator.
We are meant to experience hard things in life. We are meant to be challenged because just like a muscle that isn’t exercised can get weak and atrophied, our souls need to be stretched and strengthened as well. So we should do everything we can to protect our kids from people who would try to hurt them, but it’s not possible to always prevent hard things from happening to our kids.
I know that in the end all our experiences can be for our good. If you’re going through something traumatic, you might question the sanity of that perspective. You might think, “she has no idea what it’s like to be going through this.” And you might be right. I might have no concept of the pain you’re going through, but I know someone who does. We all have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who has felt our pain and sorrows and will help us emerge victorious over them. I know that.
So, remember you’re amazing. And please reach out to me if you’d ever like to chat about any of the subjects on any of my episodes. I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me through instagram, facebook, or my website, raisingtodayskids.com. Thanks for listening, and I truly hope you have an awesome day!