Speak to Your Kids about Safety

Parents should speak to their children about abuse prevention as holidays approach.

Yakov Horowitz,

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Publicity Photo

We are all busy before Pesach, so let’s get right to the point.

Please see to it that you speak to your children about child safety/abuse prevention before Pesach if you’ve never had that discussion with them, and give them a refresher talk if you have.

It is literally a matter of life and death that you have such a conversation.

Year after year we get a significant spike in abuse-related calls to our child safety helpline immediately before, during, and following the Pesach and Sukkot holidays. Why? Because our kids are in a less structured environment at home, in shul and at play, and are also exposed to a wide range of children, teenagers, and adults who they don’t come in contact with all year round. If you need convincing, just tally the number of people your kids interact with during a regular school week, and then do the same for the week of Pesach.

Thankfully, there is now an unprecedented awareness of the importance of child safety/abuse prevention in our community and we have come to the painful understanding that we are not immune to the ravages of abuse and molestation.

But, to be perfectly frank, the average person in the street (probably you) still cannot believe that seemingly normal, well-respected people – including close family members – can do unspeakable things to vulnerable children. This is a classic case of cognitive dissonance where your mind knows something to be true, but your heart just can’t accept it as fact, thereby leaving you in total denial.

Case in point: this time of year, caring, decent parents are still allowing their young children to collect charity door-to-door completely unsupervised.

L’ma’an Hashem; haven’t we learned anything from all the tragedies and ruined lives of kids who have been abused? At least in previous years, many or most of us thought our community was somehow immune from problems of this nature. What is the excuse now? (FYI; have a look at Girl Scouts Safety Guidelines for Cookie Sales.)

My dear friends, this lack of supervision is simply unconscionable knowing what we now know about the scope and magnitude of child abuse nowadays.

I plead with you to take this matter seriously and do everything in your power to keep your kids safe by seeing to it that your children are supervised properly over Pesach while at shul or during play time, and by having effective, research-based child safety talks with them that will educate and empower your children without frightening them.

There are four basic messages that children need to internalize in order for any abuse prevention program to be effective:

  • No secrets from parents
  • Your body belongs to you
  • Good touching/bad touching
  • No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable

Please educate yourself before speaking to your children so that your discussions generate light and not heat. Additionally, it is important for you to know – and to share with your children – that although “stranger danger” is a genuine concern, the vast majority of molesters are people well-known to and trusted by the children.

We encourage you to take advantage of free, online resources that we at The Center for Jewish Family Life posted to help educate you about effective child safety training:

Providing Your Children with the Skills and Tools to Protect Themselves is an excellent article by Dr. David Pelcovitz and our 3 short videos on child safety education, Safety Video #1, Safety Video #2 and Safety Video #3 will serve you well in beginning the education process. Additionally, you can download the read-aloud version of our Let's Stay Safe Child Safety Book for the most minimal contribution.

If you suspect that your child may have been molested, please seek the counsel of a licensed mental health professional, preferably before you speak to your children. If your child was, G-d forbid molested, please report it immediately to the authorities.

Thank you for taking the time to read these lines, and kindly take a minute to forward this article to others. To be sure, the only way our children and grandchildren will be safe, is when each and every one of them is well educated about child safety.

Best wishes for a Chag Kosher V’samayach

Yakov Horowitz

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, the Director of The Center for Jewish Family Life, received The Covenant Award in recognition of his lifelong contribution to Jewish education and his advocacy for child abuse victims. The Hebrew version of The Center for Jewish Family Life’s best-selling Let's Stay Safe Child Safety Book is scheduled for release in May 2015.