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Talking to the kids about sexual abuse

If there's anything that recent headlines have taught parents it's that's sexual predators are everywhere that kids might be. They're coaches, teachers, doctors and priests.

That means you can't afford to preserve your child's innocence completely once they're no longer at home with you all the time. Once your children reach school age, it's important to discuss sexual abuse and body autonomy in ways that help your children understand what's normal and acceptable and what isn't.

Here are some tips to start educating your children about sexual matters:

1. Don't be coy about body parts

Teach your children to use the correct terms for their body parts. If they know a penis is a penis, for example, they can better ask questions or describe something that may have happened.

2. Teach boundaries and limits

Explain -- early -- that some parts of their body are private. Also teach your children that it's okay to put physical distance between themselves and others. If they don't want to hug someone, for example, don't force them. Allow them to say, "No," when pressed for physical contact.

3. Make sure they understand not to keep secrets

Let your children understand that they are never supposed to keep secrets from you -- no matter what anyone tells them. Make it clear that they won't get into trouble for telling you something even if it seems "bad" or another adult told them to keep quiet.

4. Take their concerns seriously

If your child has questions of a sexual nature, don't laugh it off. Treat them seriously -- that way, they know that you will treat anything they have to say with respect and give it your full attention.

Sexual abuse by a trusted adult is an awful thing for a child to experience. If your child has been sexually abused by a teacher, clergy member or other trusted adult, find out more about your legal options.

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