Here at the Child Advocacy Center of Lapeer County, something we are always striving to work toward is the prevention of child abuse. Some situations put a child more at risk for abuse and it is important that parents are aware of some precautions they can take to keep their child safe.
As a parent, a common concern is wondering if your child is safe when you’re not around. Parents often feel more comfortable when their children are at home with them or under close supervision, but as your child gets older they may begin wanting to spend time at their friends’ houses or even wanting to stay the night there. If your son or daughter begins asking if they can go over to somebody’s house that you are unfamiliar with, there are a few important steps you can take to potentially reduce the risk of your child being abused and to make you feel more comfortable about where they are staying.
The most important step a parent can take before dropping their child off at somebody else’s home is to take the time to introduce yourself to the parents/adults that live in the home. Getting to know the adults who will be watching over your son or daughter can make a parent much more comfortable with the idea of leaving their child alone with them, and it can also help a parent decide if they should be letting their child stay the night at that house or not. A parent’s intuition is strong, and if you feel that something is off or you’re even slightly uncomfortable that those adults will be with your child without your supervision then you should not leave your child there alone. If it is just nervousness of leaving your child at their first play date or sleepover, and not that you actually think anything is wrong, then it could be a good idea to exchange phone numbers with the adults of the house your child is staying at so that you know you will be able to contact your child immediately if needed.
Along with getting to know the parents, it can be beneficial to know other siblings that live in the house and to make sure you let the adults know what your child is and is not allowed to do. For example, if there is a teenage sibling in the home that often watches movies, just state that you would be more comfortable if your child did not watch any movies that are above a PG-13 rating to ensure they are not exposed to horror scenes or adult content movies. Ask how the family handles internet or TV usage if you are concerned with what your child could see.
Knowing some of their general house rules can put a parent at ease, but if there are specific rules about your child that you would like to be enforced then do not be afraid to ask. Such as if you have a rule about personal boundaries, just let the parents know that your child should not be forced to participate in any game or activity that make him/her uncomfortable and that your child is allowed to respectfully say no when it concerns themselves. Most parents that will host your child for a play date or sleepover will be very understanding of your concerns and respect your requests because they have a child of their own and have probably been through the same nervous feeling when dropping off their child at somebody else’s home for the first time.
These few examples of precautions you can take are simple yet can make a big difference in how comfortable you feel leaving your child alone with people you don’t know extremely well. Knowing that your son or daughter is in a safe environment is extremely important and can protect them from various forms of abuse that they could endure if they were left in an uncomfortable situation. Never feel embarrassed for wanting to ask questions or state rules when dropping your child off at somebody else’s home, because feeling comfortable with where your child is staying is much more important than wanting to save yourself from some awkwardness.
Along with minimizing the opportunities for children to potentially be abused, there are a few other steps that can help to prevent abuse. To read more about those steps, click here.