It’s important to create a dialogue about topics like safety and abuse with your middle-schooler. Consider these conversation starters to engage them in conversation.
Ask your middle-schooler’s opinion on something happening on social media, in the news, in a new movie, or on a popular TV show. You could even watch an episode with them and ask follow up questions. Asking their opinion shows them that you value their point of view and opens the door for more conversation.
Sharing your own experiences can make these conversations relevant and feel more real to kids. If you don’t have an experience, you feel comfortable sharing, you can tell a story about someone you know.
Talking about how to be a good friend can be a powerful way of expressing to a child that you trust them to do the right thing without sounding like you’re targeting their personal behavior. It also gives you the chance to communicate safety practices they may not otherwise be receptive to.
Most middle schoolers have some knowledge of terms associated with sexual abuse, but also may have misconceptions about what the terms actually mean. Often the definitions of these concepts come from their peers or social media, which may not be accurate. Take time to teach your child about sexual abuse, make sure to use real terms and definitions.
Talk about mutual respect, boundaries, jealousy, control, and communication skills. Encourage your child(ren) to have happy, healthy, and safe relationships (this includes friendships as well).
Online conversations, whether in messages or games or other apps, can pose a difficult decision point for your kids when it comes to information, images, and videos that might be shared. Consequences range from emotional to legal. Encourage your kids to think before creating or forwarding anything sexual through electronic means and to let a trusted adult know if they receive sexual content electronically.
Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit, and abuse them. Grooming by an abuser prepares kids and often families and the community to trust them. This creates opportunities for the abuser to lure a child into risky behavior. This can lead to a child struggling with conflicting feelings about the abuser, experiencing changes in their own behavior, and self-blaming behavior.
Recognize the courage it takes for a child to tell you about abuse.
Emphasize your unwavering support as it is the best indicator of the healing outcome for your child.