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Exit Strategies + WHY Your Child Needs To Learn Them

I believe that kids should learn about safe vs unsafe touch so that they recognize when abuse is happening.


But that alone is not going to help prevent abuse.


I've talked about how a 50/50 rule is best when it comes to a more effective abuse prevention strategy.


This means that 50% of your work as a parent, when it comes to sexual abuse prevention, should be to teach your child's circle (family members/relatives, educators, caregivers, etc.) about body safety practices and how to implement them.


And the other 50% should be to teach your child about empowering consent education and abuse prevention information (strategically).


But where I find most parents miss the boat, in the 50% of teaching their kids, is that they don't equip them with the HOW to exit an unsafe situation and how to report/disclose what happened.


Rates of reporting are very low for this reason and it perpetuates the cycle of abuse that a child may be going through. This is why teaching kids exit strategies are so key to helping them stay safer.


Teaching this won't guarantee that they can prevent abuse (remember it's not your child's job to prevent abuse, it's yours), but it can help to increase the odds of reporting and/or of avoiding/stopping a potentially unsafe situation. 


Here are some quick tips to get started and teach your child ahead of family gatherings or playdates where you know opportunities for unsafe play/situations can happen.


PLEASE NOTE: I will be doing a full series on the topic of exit strategies (coming in 2022) for various age groups as well as types of situations (like online vs in person, etc). So this run-down is really just a quick overview.


I also want to preface this by saying that you don't want to START with exit strategies when teaching your child about abuse prevention, as this could scare your child.


Parents should START with empowering their child about the concepts of body autonomy, boundaries and consent FIRST before getting into conversations about exit strategies.


If you feel you're behind the ball because you haven't taught them the basics (or your child is too young to understand or be able to practice these strategies), then please don't teach these tips first. 


I recommend being vigilant and practicing open-door policies. Check in regularly with your child and ask them if they're ok. Listen to your gut if you think something is wrong or your child's body language doesn't reflect that they're ok.


Ok, all that being said, here are some tips you can teach and use to help your child exit an unsafe situation. 



Before a get-together, remind your child about your family's secrets safety rules. This is a rule that says 'We don't keep secrets in our family and between us'. 


Tell your child, if someone asks you to keep a secret, even if they say it's a 'good' secret, you can tell that person "We don't keep secrets in our family, we have a family secrets safety rule". 


And let your child know that they must tell you if someone asked them to keep a secret. Let them know that they'll NEVER be in trouble for telling you and that person won't get in trouble either. This last part is especially important if the person who asked them to keep a secret is a friend or close family member. 


The fear of either of them getting in trouble can prevent a child from reporting this. So let them know ahead of time that no one will be in trouble.


Check out my masterclass with resources and an action plan to learn more about secrets safety.



Another effective strategy a child can use to report an unsafe situation is the use of a safety word.


After reviewing body safety rules with your child before the gathering, let them know: 


"If anyone makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable or someone breaks your body safety rules and you need mommy/daddy's help, you can come to us and use a safety word to let us know something is wrong/you're feeling unsafe so we can help you."


Once they understand this, you can ask them: "What safety word(s) would you like to use?"


You can also suggest some options they can choose from. Some words or phrases you can suggest can be:


• I have a headache

• My belly feels bad

• I feel sick


If they have a smartphone and can call or text you, they can use a single word like:


• Help

• Headache

• X


Using the letter X is based on the X-Plan book by Bert Fulks which helps kids quickly let a parent know they're in trouble and need help, but can't speak in that moment to explain.


When the parent reads the safety word or letter X they know to immediately call them and let them know that they have to pick them up because something happened (this gives the child an out without being exposed that they reached out for help), so that the unsafe person isn't aware that the child has reached out for help.



It's also important to let kids know that if someone shows them photos or videos that are not meant for kids (explicit content), that they should:

• Look away,

• Walk away and

• Let you know.


Remind them that no one will get in trouble, but it's important that they don't look at or watch videos that are meant for adults. If you haven't had the porn talk yet, and you know that there will be older kids who may have unsupervised internet access, then now is the time to have this talk.


I recommend checking out Sex Positive Familie's blog post on how to have this important porn talk so it doesn't spiral or they feel they're keeping a shameful secret from you!


Lastly, there's a great resource I recommend getting if your child is 4+ which talks about how to recognize red flag behavior. The book 'I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private' by Kimberly King is the perfect book for this. She also now offers a course FOR KIDS called 'Body Boss Bootcamp' which is a perfect complement to the book. It's also for kids 4+.


Got questions? Send them my way via Instagram or Facebook!





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