Speaking to your kids about signs of abuse

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From elementary school to college, education becomes more complex and so do the social issues kids have to deal with.

From elementary school to college, education becomes more complex and so do the social issues kids have to deal with.

Action News spoke with Mary Pugh, the Executive director of the Montgomery Child Advocacy Project, an organization that offers pro bono legal services for children who are victims of abuse.

"There is research that proves education and awareness leads to prevention," Pugh said.

That means recognizing the signs of abuse, what to do about it, and how to talk to your kids.

"They've done some growing over the summer so you want to reinforce your safety issues and sometimes introduce new strategies," Pugh said.

As the new school year starts, kids are introduced to new adults in their lives like teachers and coaches.

"75 percent to 85 percent of those who harm children are those close to the family and known to the child so stranger danger is not effective," Pugh said.

Pugh says regardless of age, children should know they have a safety net of a few adults and there should be no secrets kids keep from their parents.

"When a child is very, very young and just able to communicate, you want to be able to say this is your body your boundary and no one is allowed to touch your bathing suit area ever," Pugh said.

Pugh suggest teaching through example by role playing and "what if" scenarios. Just like kids don't learn how to ride a bike through talking, they don't learn safety skills just through talking.

Make sure your young ones always have access to a phone and know how to dial 911.

Set internet and social media boundaries and make sure you have access to all your children's social media sites and check them weekly.

These conversations, while not necessarily fun, should be frank and continue through middle school, high school and college as issues get more complex.

"They need to be prepared about what to do in case of emergencies for themselves or a friend that they know they can have that conversation with you and they know you're going to tell them straight," Pugh said.

Communication and awareness are keys to helping your children navigate difficult situations:

1. Start young. The scenarios should be simple. Make sure your child knows how to dial 911 and has access to a phone at all times while in the house.

2. Teach children their body only belongs to them. Set boundaries by reinforcing NO ONE touches their private parts covered by a bathing suit EVER and if it happens, tell mom and dad immediately
3. Children should learn it's always safer to be with a friend or a trusted adult then to be alone. Reinforce the importance of the buddy system and identify SPECIFIC adults to contact if they are lost or find themselves in need of help
4. Role play difficult situations so a child knows what it feels like to say "no" in difficult scenarios.
5. Be sure to address more complex issues as the children get older. You can never have enough discussions about drugs and alcohol. Begin the conversation with a story about someone you know who was hurt by drugs or alcohol. Tell them experimenting is not ok because they don't know how the substances will affect them.
6. Bullying should be discussed with children of all ages. Tell the child what to do if he or she is either a victim or a bystander. Know the passwords to all their social media sites and check them weekly.
7. LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD. They may come to you if they have a question or problem. Children know when their parent isn't focused on the conversation and you may miss a teaching moment if you do not address the question immediately.
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