Important Conversations with Children: Beyond the Birds and the Bees

In the last year, Greenlight has received one particular question more and more frequently: How do I talk to my child about human trafficking and keep them safe?

This question goes beyond the typical “birds and the bees” conversation, and requires a delicate balance of being honest with children, yet not scaring them. The reality is that as a parent/guardian, you need to be the first person your child learns from, or they will hear information elsewhere. Unfortunately, the age of exposure is extremely young–on average children are exposed to pornography by age eight–and through inaccurate and harmful avenues such as peers at school, television, social media, or the internet. By being the first point of contact, parents can confer healthy boundaries and perspectives and establish themselves as the safe and trustworthy person their child will return to for advice.  

Here are several tips for broaching this conversations.

Be honest when explaining human trafficking. 

Human trafficking is when bad people are unkind and use others without paying them or taking care of them.” Use terminology that matches your child’s maturity and understanding (for instance, “extortion” isn’t in the vocabulary of most elementary children). Allow them to ask questions and follow their lead, attentive to what they can process and handle.

Start conversations early to teach boundary-setting.

You don’t need to go into explicit detail about sex with a 4-year-old. But while helping your toddler toilet train, start telling them, “remember, only [family member, babysitter, etc] are allowed to help you wipe.” Set boundaries. Be clear. Repeat. The book God Made All of Me is a great way to explain body safety with kids! 

Use anatomically correct terms.
Children who can correctly identify their body parts are less likely to be abused, more likely to say something if they are, and have greater success in articulating their abuse. If you use funny or unusual names for body parts, a trusted adult will not understand if a child is telling them about inappropriate touching, decreasing chances of intervention.

Don’t keep secrets.

“We don’t keep secrets. Establish the rule early. It’s not uncommon for abusers to say, “This is our secret. Don’t tell anyone!” Make sure your children know that secrets, especially with adults or older children, are not okay.

Be a safe place.

If you become aware your child saw pornography or something inappropriate, the knee-jerk reaction may be to reprimand. Unfortunately, that may damage communication channels and drive them to alternative information sources. Have open conversations. “Who showed you? Why did you watch? Do you understand why that is not okay?” If they are put in that position again, come up with a game plan for them to “escape.” Also consider resources such as “Good Pictures Bad Pictures” (and the Jr. version) to help explain pornography, what photos are inappropriate to take, and to help kids navigate the internet safely. With widespread access to devices and rising online cybersex trafficking (“sextortion”), these conversations are more important than ever.

Ultimately, you know your child/ward’s maturity and depth of understanding. While protectiveness of your child may tempt you to gloss over things like human trafficking, this will in fact leave them more vulnerable to exploitation and unequipped to handle difficult situations. The best thing you can do is start having the conversations. Set boundaries. Repeat them. Be consistent. Be the person your children trust.

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Greenlight Operation is a newly incorporated 501(c)(3) and is in the process of filing its 1023. For now, Christian Life Assembly provides operational support to Greenlight Operation, such as our giving platform. Your donations are 100% tax-deductible and go toward Greenlight Operation’s mission.

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