My daughter is barely 4 years old. More often than not lately, I feel the need to talk to her about her body and about how other people may want to violate boundaries regarding her body.
I've covered the basics already such as explaining that certain body parts are private. But I feel I need to cover more territory. Territory she's not ready for yet. Territory I'm not ready for yet. Territory that may physically reach her before any of us are ready.
There's that voice in my head telling me she's too young. But then again, have you watched the news or spoken to people who have had their children touched by sexual assault at a young age? It's happening.
Whether there's just more media coverage on the subject of sexual predators or if they are indeed increasing in numbers, I don't know.
But I do know I need to arm my daughter with the knowledge with which to protect herself when I'm not around.
We live in a town where pedophiles are rampant. You probably do too. As many people already know, "Megan's Law" was enacted in the '90s in response to the rape and murder of 7 year old Megan Kanka. Her murderer lived across the street from Megan and had been convicted of sexual crimes against young children twice previously. Her family had no idea.
Megan's parents fought to create this law that would let communities know when there is a sex offender living in their midst. You can imagine how you might feel finding out this information after your child was assaulted and murdered.
"Megan's Law" is a federal law that requires every state to provide information via law enforcement regarding registered sex offenders. The laws vary from state to state.
Though research is slim and mixed, it seems to indicate that this law has not affected or decreased sex offenses against children.
This means our children are still vulnerable.
We live in a state where we are able to view the general location of registered sex offenders on a map. All I can say is that when we looked up this information, we were shocked. Registered sex offenders are all around us and all around most of the neighborhoods in this town.
But the more frightening part of this is that many sex offenders will commit numerous sex crimes against children before they are ever caught so they are not in the system yet. That could be your child, or mine.
A teacher at an elementary school close to us was allegedly watching child pornography on their computer in the classroom. Every week in the local newspaper there's another story about either an attempted or completed sexual assault on a young girl.
These crimes are not just committed by scary strangers. They are committed by teachers, community leaders, and neighbors. No one wants to think about it, but it's an unnerving reality.
This is why I feel we need to teach our children about sex and how to protect themselves from predators at an even younger age than we parents may want to. The age at which children are being assaulted is horrifyingly young. It happens to girls and to boys.
It might feel awkward and unnecessary to talk to a toddler or child about their bodies and sex, but they need to be aware that it's not okay for anyone to talk to them or touch them in an inappropriate way.
We need to give our children the power to maintain control over their own bodies.
How do you talk to a very young child about sex? It's not easy. It's uncomfortable. There's always a concern about being too graphic or giving too much information.
There's the worry you'll get a phone call from a preschool or elementary school teacher telling you your child is talking about sex. This may happen. But it's better than waiting until it's too late to educate your child.
There's no real "right" way to talk to your child about this. You just need to let your child know that their bodies should never be touched by an adult (or an older child) under any circumstances.
You can teach your child that certain body parts are used by adults to make babies and when they grow up they can explore that. Let them know that kind of activity is off limits for children no matter what an adult tells them or gives them.
How far you take the conversation and whether you want to broach the subject of how babies are made is up to you as a parent.
Trying to prevent your child from being vulnerable to predators is more of a priority than worrying about what other parents or schools may think. As far as religious beliefs that tell you this is a forbidden subject, I make no apologies.
Every parent can find their own way to talk to their child about sexual predators and how to be in charge of their own bodies. It's not pleasant and some people won't like it.
But it's a lot better than the alternative.
More from Michelle: "Helicopter Parenting and Beyond: Rising Above the Labels""Helicopter Parenting and Beyond: Rising Above the Labels"
Originally a Vancouver Island native, Michelle now resides in California.
Michelle's blogs discuss a wide variety of topics including domestic abuse, adultery, relationships, marriage, parenting, step-parenting, beauty, health, and more.