We live in an interesting age in terms of what may or may not put our children at risk of being prey for a predator. While evil is nothing new, the amount of attention given to the subject makes it all but impossible for parents to be aware of the many new dangers our children could potentially encounter. Between social media, Amber alerts, and the nightly news, the stories warning parents are endless. Just this week, I read an article about sex traffickers targeting children by means of other children when they were in the store—with their parents right next to them. Scary stuff. And we have all heard scandals involving teachers, coaches, and even Sunday School caregivers. While we could look at these happenings as being out of our control, we should take heed to the warnings and think carefully about the people we allow to access our children.
A few weeks ago, I listened as several of my friends discussed the subject of sleepovers and specifically their elementary-aged daughters. The obvious concerns were something happening to their child by means of an adult in the home. Now, we never really know what goes on behind closed doors, and many people live in glass houses. By the end of the conversation, it seemed most parents reached the conclusion that sleepovers were just not something they felt comfortable with “these days.” I remember hosting and attending slumber parties all throughout my childhood and having so much fun! Then again, I grew up in a very small town where your neighbor knew your business before you did. Not that bad things could not or did not happen (believe me, they did!), but it was a bit on the Beaver Cleaver end of the spectrum, far removed from the more transient environment a city often brings.
I do not know your thoughts, but I do know the Holy Spirit gives every family discernment on how to handle topics like this for their own children. I do not think there is a right or wrong answer by any means, and arguments can be made on both sides of the equation. What I do think is this: to passively think that because your neighbor appears to be a stand-up, morally strong, concerned, and involved parent is potentially putting your child at risk. The minute you let your guard down is the minute your children become potential prey for predators. This is likely why most cases of child sexual abuse occur at the hands of a relative or close friend. It is typically the people we least expect who are skilled in the art of deception. With the many scandals in the news lately—some involving high profile “Christian” families—people are aware that it can happen and be hidden in any home—just not their own.
Matthew 10:16 says: “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
So, how do we protect our children from predators while not wrongly assuming the worst of people? I believe that in all things, we need to seek and listen to the voice of God above all others. In the process, do not feel guilty, wrong, or strange for making decisions for your family that may not be popular with your friends, or even extended family. At the end of the day, you do not answer to them—you answer to Him. Remember that your children are a treasure and must be taught they are such. At age-appropriate levels, we need to teach our children about reality and make them aware of potential harm. We tell them not to touch a hot stove, so we should also tell them not to be alone with another person in a restroom. These are the basics. Beyond these, build strong communication skills from the early years, asking your children questions about their friends, family members, and conversations. Let your children know that if they see or hear something that makes them uncomfortable, they should share that with you.
For older kids who may spend more time away from their parents, texting is a wonderful asset. Let your sons and daughters know they can (and should) text you with not only their whereabouts but what those places are like. What kind of home environment are they being exposed to? Your older children know what their boundaries are and that those boundaries extend beyond the walls of your home. Are there videos, tv shows, or music being played that gives them a “gut feeling”—which could be the Holy Spirit? Teach them truth and set the stage early on so they know what your standards of conduct are and can feel confident in assessing a situation causing them to break those standards. While these are just a few thoughts, they are a good starting point. Research, talk to others, and make a plan of action for your family.
I am not a psychologist or a child-rearing expert. I am a mom with children gifted to me by God. I do not expect what your family does to look like what mine does, but I want all of us to take the time and discuss with our spouse and children what the rules are in our homes and in the places we go. For the sake of better protecting our children from predators, we must be vigilant, diligent, and discerning to filter things through the proper lenses. We cannot keep our children from all harm, and we cannot guarantee our boundaries will stand strong in every situation. But we can do our best by being proactive, engaged, and knowing our children (and the company they keep) well.
I would love to hear from you and what your thoughts are on this subject. Please feel free to send a message or post to our closed Facebook group HERE.