I received this letter from a Frontline Mom last week: (She said I could let you read her letter here.)
Hello! I'm a homeschooling mom. I have recently been reading and learning about preventing all kinds of danger and abuse of children. I have a question about the subject of grooming. I really would like to be able to spot the difference between grooming behavior and typical close family friendship.
My husband and I believe that our family needs to be close to other Christians outside our family. We are part of both a church and a homeschool group that get together regularly in small groups in members' homes….
How do we grow close friendships with other families while still being confident that our children are safe playing outside our eyesight? How can we be sure our children are safe to play at even our closest friends' houses if we are not there?
A lot of what I read about the grooming process sounds like I cannot even trust my own gut and experience with people.
Thanks for your help!
I think she is asking some great questions, how about you?
Here are some of my best tips I want to give to our friend.
I so appreciated your heartfelt requests! I think I can understand what you are saying.
Kalyn's sexual abuse totally shook my world. As I worked to recover our family, I thought for a while that the best strategy was to build a big moat around our home and pull up the drawbridge. But somehow that idea did not pan out for me!
I quickly discovered that fear, paranoia and hysteria were not helpful parenting motivators... and were actually causing me to make errors in judgment. So instead, I adopted more reasonable approach. Here are 5 Important Strategies that helped me stay in balance.
1. Learn, learn, learn
Honestly, I did not know what I did not know about predators. I didn't understand that adults, if they are to pick up on the subtle grooming behaviors of predators, need to be saturated in the issue to the point where their senses are sharpened.
Read the stories. Learn the common tactics predators use with children, teens and adults. Learn the facts. And then after you have studied, link up to someone who calls your attention to the issue on a frequent basis, so it keeps the issue sharp in your mind and heart. (I can help you with that here on Frontline Moms and Dads. Start with our book Unmask the Predators. Read our posts and also click here for other websites to continue your education.)
2. Build a team
One of the best strategies for deterring sexual abuse is to raise the standards in the groups your family frequents. You mention having groups of families who fellowship together. How about having a training meeting in your group? Bringing the issue into the light intentionally will raise the "bar of safety." Responsible, godly adults who study the issue will recognize the danger and then willingly submit to protective policies, because they care about all the children in the group. No one wants our most vulnerable ones to be in danger of abuse!
Obviously, this is not the total answer. Predators are known to infiltrate organizations where children are, and they will look for ways to violate your trust. But when it is known that all the adults are on the lookout for suspicious behavior and everyone has pre-decided to report anything that is truly amiss, there is a degree of deterrence!
3. Stay alert
In my book Unmask the Predators, chapter 12 is “26 Keys for Protecting Your Child from Sexual Predators.”
Key #2 is: Maintain a Watch List. Please allow me to explain. In my previous way of thinking before Kalyn’s abuse, I would scan around me and classify people as either safe or dangerous—2 categories. But I understand now that this mindset can get us into trouble. It can cause us to not to notice certain behaviors we should in a person we have already declared "safe."
Instead, now I am always watching. I just see what I need to see. I am always evaluating. I am NOT always expecting to see a problem. But I do not throw out data. I maintain alertness in accordance with 1 Peter 5:8.
Learning how to have safe standards in group settings is one thing. But putting them into practice consistently is another! I like the convenience of just putting one teenager in charge of a group of kids. But if I do that, I automatically increase risk to my program. So that means more manpower is required, which means more sacrifice. Sometimes the sacrifice is noise control when we need to leave kids in a room with us because we did not have a safe alternative.
I really appreciate the training programs of the insurance company our church uses. They can equip your group for safety. Check them out here.....and remember they only work with sacrifice!
5. Pray and rest
Ultimately, only the Lord can carry this burden for us and keep our kids safe. Finding my own place of rest and faith was critical for me. As I maintain safety standards, I am regularly praying...
Lord, I pray that anything hiding in the darkness, You would bring to the light. Help me to see and know what I need to know. Protect our children from wolves in sheep's clothing. I plead the blood of Jesus over them and command every evil thing to stay away. In Jesus' Name!
Now as I pray, I match it with faith. God is at work! And my job is to trust and rest.
I hope those thoughts are some help! Let's stay in this fight for our kids' sake and the sake of a generation.
Image: Will “The moat and drawbridge of Hever Castle” via Flickr Creative Commons
License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)