This week’s faith formation class that I taught was a required “safe environment” program for my students. The Catholic Church is making sure that not only are adults trained on what to watch for as far as sexual predation goes, but we are now teaching the students what behaviors to notice and avoid, and what to do if they felt threatened. Since we’ve covered certain sexual topics before in our discussions of sin, I was hoping that tonight’s lesson wouldn’t be so full of giggles and silly questions that we couldn’t complete the curriculum.
As adults, looking at the sexual world in which our offspring try maneuver into adulthood, we take for granted how much we think they know.
We talked about boundaries, and what people are allowed to cross which boundary. We discussed various situations and what might be appropriate behavior. There were some giggles and always a few students that felt they had to contribute something “special” to the conversation. (/facepalm) There were some good questions and a lot of good-natured guffaws. The class was going well, with a lot of participation and knowledge being shared. There were several questions about “If I’m doing something my parents don’t know about, but if this is a problem, should I tell them?” I absolutely assured them that it was soooo much better to get honest with their folks that to be sexually abused. They were opening up to me and asking serious questions, though we had to talk around the aforementioned giggles and “interesting” comments.
When I got to the discussion of grooming, the class got much quieter. We role played some internet scenarios, designed to show how a predator might try to gain their trust. I gave some examples of behavior that a predator might use to encourage inappropriate behavior with the student. I was surprised at how little these teenagers knew, and how interested they were in the subject matter. What really shocked them was how much information they give away on sites such as Facebook, or in online chats, without realizing it. They had no idea that sharing all those details about their lives could expose them to sexual predators.
Just being exposed to sexual material on a daily basis does not educate on sexual protection. As tough as these kids are, or pretend to be, they have so much to learn.
Talk to your kids. Have your kids talk to their kids. Never assume they’ll learn what they need to know from appropriate sources. Let them know they can trust you. Make yourself trustworthy. Make sure they have trusted adults to whom they can go if necessary.
Because if they don’t think they can trust you, someone else will fill that void for you. And not always with good consequences.