Setting Boundaries Can Protect Kids
Appropriate Roles: Parents Must Be on Guard

By Cindy Wojdyla Cain
The Herald News
May 4, 2002

Parents who are wondering what they can do to protect their children from sexual abuse need to remember to set boundaries in their kids' lives.

"This gets into the whole area of appropriateness of roles and relationships between adults and children," said Jim Kubalewski, division director of Family Counseling Center of Trinity Services in Joliet.

"This is not so much about sex per se as it is about selfishness and inappropriate relationships," he added.

For instance, Kubalewski said there are only a few adults in a child's life who are to provide basic care and most often its the parents.

All other adults have very restricted roles in a child's life. Algebra teachers should teach algebra, priests should say Mass, and coaches should coach basketball.

"It's very important for a child to understand what everybody's role is," Kubalewski said.

The people who abuse children do so for their own selfish purposes.

"If an adult is getting more out of a relationship with a child then the child, that's a bad sign," Kubalewski said.

People who aren't primary care-givers or close relatives shouldn't be buying presents, clothing or other basics for children. And parents should watch out for adults who befriend their children in inappropriate ways.

Also, kids need to know who has the right to touch them and who doesn't.

"There are very few people who have a right to do anything but shake your hand," Kubalewski said.

Parents should discuss these issues with their kids, but they shouldn't over-do it.

"If you tend to talk about this a lot, it leads to paranoia," Kubalewski said. "If you don't talk about this at all, you're not doing your job."

The key is for parents to retain their roles as primary care-givers and to be on alert for inappropriate relationships between their children and other adults.

"There are many ways in which kids can be used by adults," Kubalewski said. "The bottom line is selfishness."

Parents also should teach their children how to express their emotions, said Dr. Char Thompson, of the Advocate Family Care Network's Childhood Trauma Treatment Program in Bolingbrook.

"A lot of kids can't do that because they can't put (their feelings) into words," she said.

Kids need a vocabulary to describe when they are made to feel uncomfortable, frightened or queasy by someone else's actions.

"If they don't have a word for it, they keep it inside," she said.


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