Talking About Penn State With the Kiddos

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It’s a sad day when you have to sit your kids down to warn them about being too trusting of coaches and mentors.

Last weekend, the whole family was in the truck and Daddy-o needed to dash into a shop. The rest of us waited in the vehicle, talking about capital cities. By the time he returned, we were in a big conversation about Penn State.

He shot me the “how the heck did that happen?” look.

As it turned out, the conversation went in a direction that provided an opportunity for this discussion. Besides, I had the undivided attention of all of them and had to take advantage of that.

I tried to explain the situation in simple terms – it was discovered that a trusted and loved coach was touching children in their private areas over many, many years.

The point of the discussion was three fold; it was a chance to:

  • Remind them that people we love and trust can hurt us.

 

  • Once again say that if an adult ever tells them to keep a secret from me, unless it has to do with a gift, it’s a red flag. Adults don’t ask children to keep secrets from their parents.

 

  • Re-state that no one is ever allowed to touch them or make them touch. If there is touching of any kind that makes them uncomfortable, they are encouraged to speak up and self-advocate, knowing that they will be supported by their family.

 

Then came the question period, and boy, did they ever do a good job of it. Three questions were particularly difficult and I was completely unprepared for them. I fielded them with honesty and think it went as well as it could.

Question #1: Why would a grown-up WANT to touch a child like that?

(Insert my sad explanation about creepy pedophiles and the things they will do to “groom” a child).

Question #2: What if the kid didn’t tell the coach to stop? What if the coach didn’t know the kid didn’t want to be touched?

(Insert my explanation that adults KNOW it’s wrong. Even when kids don’t speak up, adults know it’s against the law).

Question #3: What if the coach didn’t actually “hurt” the child?

(Insert my explanation of different kinds of abuse, and how the ones that don’t physically hurt can be just as/even more damaging).

How did you deal with Penn State? Did you use it as an opportunity to speak with your kids about the hard stuff, or was it just too difficult to go there?

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