Get ready — 50 Shades of Grey is coming to a theater near your kids!

Love it or hate it, a movie glorifying some of the darker sides of sexual behaviors between consenting adults is coming to a theater near you. What’s near you is near your kids, so get ready to take advantage of this teachable moment.

If you don’t know the theme of this best-selling trilogy, Mr. Grey is psychologically damaged from an abusive childhood and finds relief in sadomasochistic practices. He meets sexually inexperienced Anna, they develop a relationship, he teaches her about sex and she teaches him about love, all with lots of sex going on designed to arouse readers of all persuasions.

Here’s a few topics from this movie that make a great discussion with any child, from around age 10 on:

  • In real life, it is never OK for an adult to seduce a child (Grey was introduced to sex by a friend of his mother)
  • In real life, it is never OK for people to hurt each other
  • In real life, girls  want to have their own lives, their own opinions and don’t crave domination
  • In real life, if a man tells a woman (or a woman tells a man) he’s too damaged for a relationship, as Grey tells Anna early on, listen to him and run the other way.

With all of the hype about the books and movie, you may have read points like these, or thought about them yourself if you’ve read the books. As a sex educator, here’s the point I consider most important: This material was written to induce sexual arousal, and when it does, your child needs to understand that just because they experience reflexive arousal does not mean that this is the type of sex they want to have when they are mature enough to have sex.  It is a very common experience for humans to experience arousal from observing or reading about a sexual act they would never consider, and it takes honesty and maturity to understand that fact.

When a male experiences an erection, when a female experiences warmth and lubrication in her genitals, it is a sign that a primal part of their brain has been activated. Young people who don’t understand this are at a terrible disadvantage. People who exploit children and adolescents use the child’s reflexive arousal to convince them that they were a willing partner. Adolescents unfortunate enough to develop a crush on a predatory adult may find their arousal used as a tool for seduction. A teen  may mistake a partner’s arousal for a “yes,” even when they are  clearly saying “no.”  Each of these scenarios are too common and can have disastrous results that devoted parents can help prevent.

Becoming sexually aroused is a reflexive response to stimulus. Sexual response comes from a primal part of the brain that has nothing to do with reasoning. Our kids need to learn that there is no shame in sexual arousal – ever! A key lesson in becoming a mature adult is learning the difference between lust, which is physical arousal and love.  The ubiquitous promotions for the  50 Shades  books and movie provide a most useful teaching aid to make this point.

Loving, responsible parents can find the words and the courage to explain sexual arousal to their children. Young people can learn about the joy of these wonderful feelings and  the angst of them occurring at inopportune times.  Parents can share  the critical lesson that these feelings have nothing to do with the thoughtful, deliberate decisions they will make about their own sexuality. Just because they experience arousal at a book, a move, video, or even the sight of popular young teacher does not at all mean that they can or should act on these feelings.

Your child will most likely have access to clips, summaries and other excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey. Along with processing the obvious lessons about loving, equal relationships between real adults in love, use this as an opportunity to prepare them for the complexities of understanding sexual arousal, a most important lesson for a lifetime of sexual health and safety.

This article appeared first at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-is-coming–are-you-ready.html

 

Privacy? YES! Secrets? NO!

If you’ve just spend the holidays with a house full of company or crammed into an airport waiting area, privacy probably seemed like a distant fantasy. If you managed to surprise someone with the gift of their dreams, keeping secrets may seem like a great idea. There’s a time and place for both secrecy and privacy. Understanding and incorporating the concepts into your family life can promote sexual health and safety, and strengthen the overall quality of the relationships between the family members.

Secrecy is a straightforward concept; a person knows something and keeps it to himself. Privacy is more nuanced; one person knows something, and others may know it too, but the others don’t observe or witness it.

As part of healthy development, kids should be taught that they can earn the privilege of privacy but that secrets from parents are unacceptable. Promoting sexual health and safety is easier when a family has a norm that includes treating all part of the body equally.  Children who are unable to discuss their genitalia with their parents may be even more susceptible to the request of a predator to keep their ‘special games’ a secret. A child should learn that their body is private, but there is never any shame or secrecy associated with any part.

It’s a great idea for the adults in a family to have a discussion on what will be private — for example, discussions about finances, or parents’ arguments the children might overhear. By the time a child gets close to elementary school age, they should start to be able to understand this nuance, but younger kids understand absolutes: no secrets from Mom or Dad.

As a child matures, they can start to earn some privacy. Going to the bathroom is a good topic to illustrate the difference between privacy and secrecy. A parent might explain: “When you’re big enough to reach the toilet, when I trust that you will be sure wipe yourself when you’re done, you can earn the right to have privacy in the bathroom – you’ll be able to go by yourself and eventually shut the door. But, Mommy or Daddy will know that you’re there, we’ll know what you’re doing so it won’t be a secret. And if anything is wrong – if your pee is a funny color or it hurts when you poop, you know you can tell us.” Privacy means you get to do it by yourself, but we just don’t ever keep secrets from each other.

In a healthy family, parents need and deserve privacy. It is to be assumed that older kids will rifle through parents’ drawers and closets given the opportunity. Assume that your child will do this and take precautions: Put your personal things away and lock up anything you don’t want them to find. Of course parents have the right to have adult items in the house—they are after all adults. But, children do not want to be confronted with the fact that their parents are sexually active, so put away the special books, toys, creams, prescriptions, lingerie, etc.! If a child finds a locked drawer or box, let him wonder about the contents; if parents find evidence that a child has been exploring the parents’ possessions, take the opportunity to discuss the difference between privacy and secrecy. It’s no secret that grown-ups are sexual but how they express it is completely private from their kids.

Parents can set a foundation for privacy early in the life of their family, making it clear to their kids how they can earn more privacy as they mature. At the same time, be clear that open lines of communication mean that parents and children can and will talk about anything, and no secrets from Mom and Dad.

 

Sex Play Between Kids — What’s OK and What’s a Problem?

For more than a century, developmental psychologists have been studying how and why children play. One of the most widely accepted schools of thought describes children progressing through three stages of play: solitary, or playing by themselves; parallel, or playing near other children but not necessarily with them; and group play, where the children are clearly interacting with each other. The speed at which children pass through these stages is highly variable, depending on such factors as the child’s personality, the number of siblings in her household, or her exposure to other children. Most children are not capable of true group play until well into their preschool years.

Parents often  wonder about sex play between kids. There are certain issues that differ with the ages of children, for example touching between two year olds is very different than touching between twelve year olds, but there is one universal indication for your concern: if coercion of any kind was used by either child to gain compliance from the other, adult intervention is imperative.  There is also one universal rule for parental reaction: regardless of what you see, stay calm and think before you say anything to your child or another parent. If you display a shocked exclamation or scream, this can stay with the children involved long after any memory of the activities that caused this reaction.

Recognizing the harmlessness of parallel play with or without clothes, many families allow full nudity among their kids, for example bathing the younger kids all together. A child will let you know when she’s outgrown this and then you must heed your child’s request and honor a request for privacy from siblings.

Toddlers who are still in the solitary or parallel phase of development would be highly unlikely to be interested in a game like naked doctor or you-show-me-yours-and-I’ll-show-you-mine. Toddlers may glance at one another or maybe even reach out in curiosity to touch another child’s genitals, but this behavior should be treated like your child reaching out and annoying someone with an unwanted touch anywhere.

It is not uncommon for an older child to decide that he or she is curious and wants to inspect a younger child and the younger child may not mind at all.  This seems to have been the case in the family of actor/writer Lena Dunham.  Although some pundits labeled her a sex offender when her memoir revealed that she’d inspected her little sister’s genitalia, it apparently was a non-event for her sister.   Parents who come into this situation might calmly announce that playtime is over and then speak with each child in private. That conversation should be a lesson in respecting the personal boundaries of others, and offering to answer their questions about body parts. Doing this without shaming the children is crucial.   It’s key to determine if   either child used any kind of force or coercion; if one child appears frightened of the other pay close attention.  Speak to the child who may have done the coercing and try to determine the motivation and where they came up with the idea.

If the answers indicate that someone else has been playing this ‘game’ with them, you need to investigate further of call authorities.   If t they truly can’t understand that their behaviors may cause pain to another, it may be time to seek the support of a qualified child development specialist.  While the overwhelming   mutual majorly of sexual exploration between children is harmless, learning the identify an intervene where maladaptive behaviors are indicated is one of the best things a parent can do for their child; intervention with young people has a very high probability of success.

 

This article originally   appeared at  http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Sex-play-between-kids-When-is-it-a-problem.html

Kids, Food and Pleasure

I have a lot of great company in the world of professionals who encourage parents to speak with their kids about sex.   Nonprofit organizations like Advocates for Youth  offer support as does  The American Academy of Pediatrics; even the US government recognizes the important role parents play in sexual health and safety!

But many health care professionals focus almost exclusively on preventing problems, like teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections or sexual abuse.    These are very important issues but woefully one-sided. To really give our child the gift of sexual health and safety, we have to include the good stuff and one way to do that is to ensure that our kids learn  to value their own pleasure.

Any parent or caretaker who has nursed or fed an infant recalls the joy of seeing the baby cooing in our arms and falling into a delightfully satisfied sleep after being fed.    But sometime between the suckling infant and the awkward adolescent phases, parents forget how important it is to let our kids delight in the pleasures of their body.    Promoting a healthy relationship with food as our child develops is an important way to reinforce the concepts of healthy pleasure.

According to local expert Dr. Lynn Caesar, the first step is paying attention to how we eat with our children.   “We need to be eating mindfully in order to experience pleasure.”  Caesar said.       “Parents can encourage this experience by slowing down life and creating a pleasurable connection with our children around food.”   She adds “it takes practice, time, and commitment.”

Encouraging our children to savor the taste and texture of their food can encourage paying attention to all of their senses and learn to listen to their bodies own cues.

Caesar reminds us that “food can be fraught with emotions that have nothing to do with eating….   guilt, anxiety, reward, or punishment.”   To avoid what can become maladaptive  associations, she urges parents to consider the downside to using food as a tool for reward and punishment.   “The road to healthy pleasure with food and family is challenging, particularly as parents are competing with children’s excessive snacking with highly addictive foods that are salty, fatty, and sweet.”

Sex-wise parents encourage their children to mature into sexually safe and healthy adults and healthy sensuality is fundamental.   Mindful eating can offer important lessons about health and pleasure, concepts we want to see our children transfer to their developing concepts of sexual health and safety.

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Kids-Food-and-Pleasure.html

A Lesson in Sexual Abuse Prevention from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Matt Sandusky

In her recent interview with Matt Sandusky, Oprah Winfrey hit one of the toughest issues associated with child sexual abuse head-on.

Her interview with the man both victimized and adopted by former Penn State assistant football coach and convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky drove home this  point:  people must rid themselves of the notion that all sexual abuse hurts physically.

“It is part of my mission to expose sexual abuse for what it really is” said Winfrey, and her  questioning of Matt Sandusky was one more step on that path.

As she did with former child actor Todd Bridges in 2010, she directed her questioning of Sandusky to reveal that sexual arousal and climax were part of the abuse.

“It’s very confusing, it’s very confusing to you because you … have a reaction,” Sandusky said, tearfully stumbling over his words. “It’s something that you definitely don’t know what’s happening, but that’s just what it is, I guess, I don’t want to say that it’s pleasurable, but it’s not the most painful thing I guess.”

Winfrey firmly told Sandusky that it is OK to say it’s pleasurable, “because it is. You don’t have the language to even explain what’s happening,” she said.

And therein lies one of the most compelling arguments for sexual education for children. We can neutralize one of the most powerful tools used by predators when we raise kids who truly understand that genital arousal in response to stimulation is as uncontrollable as getting goose bumps when they are tickled. There is no shame or mystery – that’s just how the body works. Parents are the best people to share this information with their kids in age–appropriate doses as they develop, and I believe that so strongly that I developed resources to help them.  With practice and tools  like these, it can be easier than it seems.

Oprah Winfrey shares my dedication to ensuring that people understand that involuntary physical sexual arousal is often an aspect of sexual victimization, and ignorance of this fact traps victims into confusion, shame and silence.

In April 2010, she asked Todd Bridges to read the section from his autobiography “Killing Willis” where he described his awful confusion from climaxing when molested. That show inspired me to bring a sex educator’s perspective to child sexual abuse prevention, write the Sex-Wise Parent and put resources at SexWiseParent.com. In 2012, I heard boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard speak at a Penn State conference on child sexual abuse; he said that hearing Todd Bridges acknowledge this physical reaction on national TV gave him the courage to speak out about his own victimization.

Sexual abuse of children takes many forms, each of them painful in its own awful way. We know that the majority of abuse is initiated by a person known to the child.  In many of these situations, the abuser uses so-called ‘grooming’ techniques to seduce a child into compliance before the child knows what’s happening. Accurate information, lovingly shared by informed parents, can provide children an extra means of defense against fear, guilt and shame and provide a robust defense against sexual a most common type of sexual predator; those who shun physical violence in favor of inducing a physical reaction.

I will always thank Oprah Winfrey for using her platform to continue to share this very important message. Let’s honor that by helping families and communities provide accurate and honest information about sexuality. To paraphrase a pedophile I interviewed when writing the Sex-Wise Parent: “kids want to talk about sex and if their parents won’t do it, I will”.

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Why new technology available to parents to monitor kids online behavior is insufficient

Why new technology available to parents to monitor kids online behavior is insufficient

Parents have both a right and the responsibility to be totally aware of their child’s online life, and the earlier you make that clear to your child the easier it will be to enforce. A 2010 Pew Research study revealed that “the bulk of kids … are getting cell phones at ages 12 and 13 – right as they transition to middle school” and a 2013 study found that 95% of teens are online. And while the true incidence of sexting with explicit photos is probably less than 5 percent of kids online, we also know that at least 10 percent of kids report an unwanted sexual solicitation. Here are two good reasons why parents need to stay on top of their kids’ online activity: Neither young children nor teens are a match for a skilled predator;  and adolescents have a mature sex drive managed by a not–yet-mature brain. And if you still need convincing, read this report prepared by the Crimes Against Children Research Center and see how many of the cases reported to law enforcement were uncovered when parents checked their kids’ phones!

Parents of young kids can set a precedent starting when their kids use their first electronic devices. Certain security measures are low-tech, like keeping the device chargers outside of the bedroom in order to keep devices off the bed, setting all passwords yourselves, and checking devices daily. The most readily available of the low-tech options is parent-child communication. Let your children know why you intend to monitor their on line use; little ones should not have independent internet access until at least age 12; their first experience of your limit setting can be when they learn that your plan only covers a certain number of calls, or of you program their phones limiting the numbers they can call or receive calls from

Continuing conversations about online safety provide a countless opportunities to discuss your family values around relationships and sexual health and safety with young teens and adolescents. Discussions about unanticipated solicitation, sexual and otherwise, lead right into a conversation about respecting other people’s boundaries, and being empowered to hold their own. A dialog about predators opens the door to conversations about the importance of really knowing someone — online or in person — before placing full trust in them. And when you get to the talk about sexting, don’t stop at the tech-based reminders that photos exist forever and can be shared beyond the intended recipient. Try having a discussion about how normal it is for young people to be confused about making any decisions about sex. Chapters 5 and 6 in my book, The Sex-Wise Parent will be helpful.

Does hot weather means “hot” clothes for your kids?

With hot weather now the exception rather than the rule,  parents need to understand the effect the heat can have on kids. Some children  wait  all winter for an excuse to bare their skin in clothes that are more suitable for a dance club than school. Let the battles begin?

Not necessarily. For parents, a good place to start is determine your child’s school’s policy on dress code and how is it enforced.

The rules in Philadelphia generally refer to students dressing in a “manner of appearance that disturb, distract or interfere with the instructional program, or constitute a health or safety hazard.” At the very least, schools should prohibit children from exposing their belly buttons, breast cleavage, butt cleavage and the wearing of suggestive slogans on t-shirts by either students or staff. It is perfectly natural for teens and pre-teens to push boundaries and arrive in school wearing something that bends—if not actually breaks—the dress code rules. School staff should react firmly to any breaches in the rules, while not embarrassing the student.

A common problem among younger kids is they may believe that a certain type of look equates to being attractive—without understanding that the look has a sexual connotation. When a nine-year-old girl chooses a bedazzled tube top with a decidedly hookerish look, her parents needs to supplement their “no” with an explanation beyond a “because I said so.” Explaining to kids that certain kinds of clothes carry a message (one that is not always appropriate for their age) is a good place to start. Consider using a uniform as an example and say something like this — “When you wear shin guards, I know you’re getting ready to play soccer.” This starts the discussion about how a particular look is seen by some people as a signal that you’re dressed for a specific activity. You could explain to young kids that certain items of clothing are seen as a “uniform” for people who like to kiss or flirt or an equivalent term that will make an 8-year-old think, “Yuck.” With older kids, it is equally important to stress that a person’s attire is never to be taken as a sign of anything about their preferred sexual behaviors. Dress is NEVER to be taken as an invitation to touch.

Girls are especially are pressured to appear looking sexual at young ages, being exposed to promotions for things like baby bikinis or padded bras for eight-year-olds. Parents can nip this in the bud with a parent-child discussion about their family dress code. What a great opportunity for parents to express their values to their children! Cover topics ranging from self-respect, dignity, the image they want to portray, individual choice versus following a crowd, and sexuality. If you can manage to be non-judgmental, ask the young teenaged girl why she thinks her shirt has to be skin tight; ask the boy why he wants to wear a t-shirt with a sexist logo. Conversations on dress could open a myriad of topics that help strengthen a parent child relationship! Younger kids are more likely to engage that older ones; the turbulent adolescent years may make your teen turn a deaf ear to your opinions, but keep them coming anyway.  They’re listening a lot more than they let on.

Before snapping up the last bargains from the summer sales, start the discussion with your kids so they know your opinions and limits.  Sex-wise parents know that filling their children with their values is one of the most important steps in raising sexually safe and healthy children and this is a golden opportunity for one of those valuable conversations.

Learn more about how to support your child’s sexual health and safety from my book, The Sex Wise Parent and by visiting www.sexwiseparent.com.

 

 

 

Choose a safe summer program for your kids!

Choose a safe summer program for your kids!

The school year will end before you know it, and NOW is the time to make summer plans for kids.   Some parents look for a summer program that is educational; others look for a program that builds a special skill; many pick a program with hours that match parents work schedules.  Regardless of why a program is chosen, one thing should be certain: that the camp is run in a way to keep children safe.

Let’s go through a typical camp day to see some how a camp can ensure a child’s physical and emotional comfort and safety.

If the children will be picked up, will there be someone other than the driver to provide supervision? Excited kids can get unruly and distract a driver; an older child assigned to lead songs and keep order may be enough if no staff member is available. If parents drop off the children, are there procedures in place to ensure that the child passes from the parents supervision directly to a staff member? Is there a safe path to travel when the child leaves the car?

Camp administration should check the background and references for all people who have access to children. This includes maintenance and food services staff as well as the counselors, teachers or volunteers working directly with kids. It is common for summer camps to employ students; these young folks should participate in pre-service training to learn the rules, values and standards of the camp, and be assigned a supervisor who really supervises!

Parents need to know how children are monitored as they move about the camp, for example if a child needs to use the bathroom. If the policy is to let children go alone, a time limit of no more than 5 minutes should be set. Tight supervision is a must for field trips; assigning buddies and performing constant head counts are basic tools of the trade.

Parents should always be able to observe a camp day. The camp should have a procedure requiring parents to sign in, and parents should be respectful and not interfere with camp activities.

The camp should maintain a list of people allowed to pick up children provided by parents at registration. Honor the process by avoiding last minute changes that the camp can’t verify.

Emotional safety requires attention. If swimming if offered, have the staff been prepared to handle children’s discomfort about changing clothes in front of others? If there is a focus on sports, are all children encouraged to participate? Is competition kept to a healthy level? Is the discipline consistent with parents’ values? And, how to they stop bullying?

A parent could learn about these issues by interviewing the camp director, or talking to parents who sent their children in prior years. If the program that’s most convenient for you because of location, cost or hours does not meet all of these standards, the administration may be willing to take some of your suggestions!

Throughout the summer, parents should ask kids questions on these topics. Summer should be a time of relaxed fun for children and parents will be able to relax themselves when they know they have chosen a safe summer program for their children.

 Find a checklist to take on your camp tour at

www.SexWiseParent.com/resources 

and share it with the other parents in your life!  

 

 

This article originally appeared @Philly.com!

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Choosing-a-safe-summer-program-for-children.html

Don’t give a predator an advantage!

On a beautiful Sunday morning, I was enjoying a walk in a park, admiring the views, the gardens, the art and the variety of people, when something caught my eye and took my thoughts right back to work. A mom was strolling with her two young children and both kids had their first names written in huge letters on the back of their tie-dyed sweatshirts.

I think this is a dangerous thing to do.  Twenty years ago, when law enforcement stressed stranger-danger and abduction-prevention advice to parents, a cardinal rule was to avoid personalizing children’s clothes. The fear was that predators could call kids by their first names and engage them through familiarity.

While I’m the first to remind anyone who will listen that the overwhelming majority of sexual abuse against children is perpetrated by someone they know, there’s absolutely no reason why we should we give any predator an advantage. Kids need to know about boundary-pushing relatives or acquaintances who prey on children and youth, and that strangers can be predators as well. Adults can turn to the Take 25 Campaign from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a resource to start the conversation in their family using the materials available in English and Spanish.

Predators who would take advantage of a child’s name on her clothing often feign familiarity and indicate that the parent sent them to pick the child up. Another recommendation that bears repeating is for families to specify a code word that a child should expect to hear from any adult claiming to know the child or his family. Preparation is so important; young children — and many adults — are incapable of outwitting a charming sociopath.

Stranger-danger is easier for parents to talk about than sexuality but that conversation is not enough. Children will want to know what a stranger can do that is so scary and if we don’t explain in developmentally appropriate concepts, kids will fill in the blanks. They have many fears and any child with access to the media knows that sex crimes occur.  Please don’t let your children share the experience of a child who believed that a stranger might ‘rake’ her, which she thought meant being beaten with a garden tool.  The comprehensive discussion about child safety might come after sharing the personal, positive aspects of sexuality and this resource can provide guidance.  Then a  safety discussion can cover the fact there are people who try to abuse a child’s personal and private sexuality.  The first discussions with their parents about sex should revolve around love and intimacy, not stranger danger and anxiety.

Monogram your kids’ robes and pajamas, and discuss why you don’t want their names on their sweatshirts and jackets.   It can provide another opportunity to foster the kind of discussions that strengthen families and protect children.

 

This article first appeared in the Healthy Kids blog of philly.com at   http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Dont-give-a-predator-an-advantage.html

 

Create a winning team for safety in youth sports — with parents!

Create a winning team for safety in youth sports — with parents!

Fall means soccer, winter brings basketball, and then finally we get to play baseball; so go the seasons of childhood. As parents, we idealize the gifts that youth sports can bring to kids such as improving physical fitness, learning about teamwork, and experiencing the thrill of victory. But the Sandusky tragedy reminds us that even people who seem to have our kids’ best interests at heart may not.

Parental involvement with kids’ sports has always been beneficial to family relationships and children’s self-esteem. Now we’re reminded that child safety is also enhanced by the presence of a parent or other observant adult at practices and games. A convicted pedophile that I interviewed for The Sex-Wise Parent told me that “nothing makes a child less attractive than having his parent around all the time.” Most of us can’t be around all the time, but we can take steps to ensure that there is always one adult with eyes on your child.

Many youth sports teams have specific volunteer or required roles to help the team operate like “snack parent” or “equipment parent.” As the next team season approaches, think about collaborating with other parents to develop a rotating schedule for a “stand parent”, an adult to attend each game or practice to watch over and cheer for each player.

The organization Safe for Athletes was founded by a former Olympian who endured sexual abuse and harassment during her career as an elite, youthful athlete. Safe for Athletes goes a step farther and encourages leagues to appoint an Athlete Welfare Advocate, a “designated adult any athlete can contact with concerns about any coach, volunteer, other athlete or anyone making them uncomfortable in their role as an athlete.”

 This type of advocate may have an important role in highly competitive sports organizations such as those preparing elite athletes for national competitions. Properly screened and trained, such advocates could be a lifeline for kids dealing with a coach who exhibits any harmful behavior, including sexual abuse. Less formal organizations should still consider a strategy to enhance parental involvement for child safety, and this should be on the agenda of a pre-season parent meeting.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the organization that brought missing children to the forefront of the American consciousness several decades ago, recently developed an initiative named Safe to Compete providing resources to help youth-sports organizations protect child athletes from sexual abuse. Their resource page contains links to sample policies and procedures for youth and athletic organizations, and I hope parents share this with other parents and league administrators. But policies are never foolproof, and there is no substitute for an adult with set of loving, watchful eyes.

When the schedule for the next season arrives in your email, switch right over to your calendar and block off time for a pre-season parent meeting and for as many games and practices as possible. The fresh air will be good for you and your presence can be a gift to all of the children on the team.

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I recently  presented on this topic at the 2014 National Soccer Coaches Association of America/US Youth Soccer Convention  Philadelphia.