Do playdates put my children’s safety at risk?
Certified sexual assault prevention expert, Mirella Alexis, advises on how we can help our kids safely expand their social circles and participate in the fun aspects of youth.
Over the years, we have had a few close family friends with children and would comfortably drop off our daughter at their homes for playdates. Now that she’s getting older, her social circle is expanding and she is being invited over to the homes of new friends whose parents we do not know as well. We have been trying to keep it to playdate meetups or playdates at our house, but she is persistently begging to go.
When I was growing up, I have wonderful memories of afternoons or sleepovers at a friend’s house, and I don’t want to deprive her of the same. But in my adult years, I’ve had several people close to me confide that when they were younger, they were molested by a cousin, neighbor, or family friend. Now I feel extremely reluctant to permit her at someone else’s home if I’m not there.
Any advice or insights on how to handle this situation would be greatly appreciated!
Your concerns are real and valid. However, never wanting to deprive your child of an experience or of living a well-rounded life is real too. Like with anything else in life, there has to be a balance. Freedom and a safety net have to be established in order for your daughter to navigate life. After all, we have to raise our children to the best of our ability, sharing all the resources and tools we can for them to make the best choices possible and live a resilient life.
So let’s start with some facts. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse at some point in their childhood, although these numbers vary across research studies. Further, 9 in 10 children who are sexually abused are done so by someone familiar to them or their family.
Given the data, you are correct—and smart—to be aware of the issue and concerned. As a parent, it’s your job to raise children who have control over their own body and feel comfortable and confident saying no to an adult if unwanted behaviors are directed toward them. Here are some tips below.
Talk to your child. First and foremost, talk to your daughter about age-appropriate sexual behaviors. It may be difficult to understand that children are curious about sex and sexuality, but it’s human nature.
Help set boundaries. Second, let your daughter know that she is entitled to personal space, privacy, and her own boundaries. Her strongest safety skill is saying “no” and knowing that all others have to respect her “no.”
Create a family safety plan. Third, create a family safety plan. Sit down as a family to discuss and decide safety rules that you want to put in place together as a unit. Write down your list of rules and put them on the fridge or any other centered space in your home so they can be referred to and on display for others to see. You can also share the rules with caregivers, teachers, and family members. Your daughter can also feel empowered by taking a copy of the safety plan to sleepovers. This will also discourage any perpetrators your daughter comes in contact with.
Promote communication. Lastly, keeping an open and honest line of communication with your daughter will give her the confidence to speak up when faced with any risky behavior, not just sexual.
Thank you for sharing your concern. The CareNectar team is here for you if you have any additional questions.
Meet The Expert
Mirella has been a family and childcare advocate for nearly two decades. With her bachelor’s degree in early childcare education, Mirella immediately started expanding her portfolio as a professional nanny, early childhood educator, and newborn care specialist. She later obtained her certification in child nutrition, positive discipline, and child abuse prevention. She expanded her professional reach more in 2016 by taking on the role of labor and postpartum doula. In 2020, Mirella became the Vice President of The Nanny Sitter Fund. She’s excited to be bringing her passion for childcare to the masses, making child welfare everyone’s responsibility. Learn more about her at MirellaAlexis.com