My daughter is eight and one of her best little friends at school lives just a few streets away and often comes over to our house after school for a play. The friend’s mother is lovely too and often invites my daughter over to their house to play as well. I do let her go sometimes, but often find myself making excuses, because for some unexplainable reason I just don’t trust her husband.
I should stress that I don’t know why I don’t trust him. I have never had any problem with him; he has never said anything inappropriate to me or to my daughter (that I know of). I have never heard anything bad said about him by any of the other school parents. But for some reason he just gives me the creeps. And because he works from home he is often there in the afternoons when the kids finish school.
Like I said, I do let my daughter go over there to play but I’m never really happy about the decision. But also like I said, I’ve got no reason not to trust him. Has anyone else had this issue? Should I go with my gut feeling and minimise the visits she makes to their house (I don’t want to risk offending her friend or her mother though). Or is it just paranoia from reading too many horror stories in the papers?
I think that’s a great question and as a parent it’s something that I’ve considered from time to time, because when our kids do go visiting we can’t always control who else will be there. I have asked Hetty Johnston, founder and executive director of the wonderful organisation Bravehearts Inc to help you out with a response.
“The first thing to say is always to trust your own instincts,” says Hetty. “Go with your gut feeling. Unless this is a common pattern for you, there is probably a good reason you feel the way you do - even if you don’t know what it is. Trust it. The potential to upset the little girl’s Mum by not letting your daughter go over to their house to play, pales into insignificance against the alternative potential that your child is unsafe.
But you raise another important observation. With the rising awareness of child sexual assault many parents are becoming almost paranoid. While this is understandable given one in five children are sexually assaulted in some way before their 18th birthday, this too is unfair to the child. Kids needs to be able to experience other people and to grow in their own confidence. They just need parents who will teach them how keep safe while they do it. As parents, we need to teach our children to recognise and trust their own instincts and support them whenever they feel or express a ‘NO’ feeling.”
TW, Hetty advises that the answer lies in education, both in terms of children and parents. “We wouldn’t think of letting our kids walk to school without first teaching them the road rules,” she says. “And we do this successfully without the need to describe the gory scene of a road accident. We can also successfully teach 3 to 8 year olds the road rules of personal safety and it do it without describing the gory scene of sexual assault.”
TW, if you’re unsure about how to talk with your daughter about personal safety issues then check out some of the fact sheets available on the Bravehearts website. Bravehearts also produces a CDrom called “Ditto's Keep Safe Adventure.” “It is not sex education, it is about personal safety generally - including bullying,” says Hetty. “It’s fun, it’s safe and it WORKS! It costs around $25.00 and represents the closest thing we have to insuring your child against sexual assault and other forms of harm. I recommend it to every parent in the nation with a child under 10 years old.”
And in the meantime, as Hetty said, trust your instinct. Personally I’d prefer to err on the side of caution.
As parents, we need to teach our children to recognise and trust their own instincts
What would you do? Have your say on Justine's blog.