Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sex Ed and Sexual Abuse

Sex is the one topic that parents generation after generation have the most difficulty teaching their children. Sexual development is part of human development but the subject is infused with so much cultural meaning including fear and shame that we often avoid the issue. Most people pass on the job of sex education because they are not sure of the facts and don't know what to say. Think about how you learned about sex from your own parents, or rather from peers on the playground. This is particularly difficult and dangerous when we are trying to protect our children from sexual abuse. One in four women and one in five men is the victim of child sexual abuse. Children as early as three or four need to know about "indoor" and "outdoor" plumbing, vaginas and penises and what they do and what they are for, how babies are made and how they are born, and how it feels and how to manage sexual development through adulthood. What is normal is same age sexual exploration like "playing doctor" and "show and tell", and yes, masturbation. What is not normal is sexual knowledge and language beyond age level and coercion, compulsion, and secrecy. These are red flags for sexual abuse. Perpetrator may have been victim and both need intervention. The Child Welfare League of America has some great resources including articles and books for children and parents and links to local treatment options. Sexually abused children can grow up to be healthy, happy adults. Start today.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Attachment Basics

The relationship with the parent is the template for all future relationships. This attachment is essential for survival. Without it an infant dies. The attachment is directional, from child to parent. It is driven by the parent's commitment to meet the basic needs of the child. And, because it is a one-to-one relationship, it develops differently with each parent and primary caregiver. We have a different relationship with our mother than our father. Each one is unique, and there is no competition. A person can and does have many attachments over a lifetime. The child's role in attachment is to make his or her needs known. When a parent meets those basic needs; for food, comfort, touch, or soothes the distressed child, the attachment grows stronger. The prime time for attachment is pre-birth to the first three to four years of life. The attachment relationship is brain based. When a parent meets a child's needs, he or she is building brain cells. Baby cries, mother holds, and a brain connection forms. In the same way, if an infant cries but a parent does not respond, a different brain connection is made. The child either feels powerful or powerless. So, attachment contributes to self esteem, identify, and behavior. A child who is securely attached to a parent can make friends, get along with employers, maintain an adult relationship, and facilitate secure attachment of their own child.