In my entry last week, I described a number of factors that increase the risk of sibling abuse to occur. This time I am instead giving an account of circumstances which significantly reduces the chance that violations will occur among siblings.
- That the fathers get involved in a positive way in their sons, have a stabilizing effect on the problems that can arise between siblings.
- Similarly, a good interaction between mother and children has a calming effect on older siblings tending to behave aggressively towards their younger siblings.
- Parents who openly show affection to their children and engage in them and where they discipline their children in a consistent and non-punitive way.
- That the family is surrounded by a strong network of alternative caregivers such as grandparents and siblings of the parents.
- Mental and physical presence in the home and the ability of the parents to use their network of neighbours, teachers and friends.
- Homes where parents learn to create a balance between interfering too much in their children’s affairs and a complete lack of a protective and competent parenting.
What can parents do to prevent sibling abuse?
- Reducing fights in the home between children by setting up rules and boundaries that are clear to all. Explain that you as a parent will not tolerate discord (assault) such as scolding, kind, derogatory nicknames, provocative behaviour, or “inappropriate touch” between them. By having clear boundaries in the home, children are well aware of what sibling abuse is and then there is a greater chance of a vulnerable child telling its’ parent about any abuse that has already happened.
- Don’t give the older children too much responsibility or authority over the younger siblings. This can cause resentment in the older child and can lead to abuse. Instead, try to have a baby sitter, or let the kids be at a youth recreation centre after school or make sure there is a trusted adult who can watch your children while you yourself are not at home.
- Please spend some time each day to talk to your children about their day. It’s a good idea to talk individually with each child at least a couple of times a week to ask them what they do, how they feel, if they have any problems or are pondering something.
- Learn how to detect and intervene in your children’s quarrels or fights before they turn into assaults. Children cannot be expected to solve all their disputes on their own. When a parent notices that a fight is about to escalate or is likely to turn into physical violence or demeaning nicknames, do not hesitate to interfere and separate the kids, so that you get the opportunity to listen to each side. In this way, your children notice that they are being heard at the same time as they learn peaceful ways to resolve their conflicts.
- Also keep an eye on what programs your children are watching on TV, what they read, and what they do on the Internet. Find out more about your children and show an interest in what they are doing. Such simple measures can actually help any sibling abuse to be nipped in the bud. When a child is big enough to understand that sex can feel comfortable, make sure that you talk to them about what their responsibility is and teach them that they have the right to say “no” to any unwanted physical contact, whether it is sexual or in any other manner.
Create an open atmosphere in the home that encourages discussion among the children. Let them know that they have the right to demand that their bodies and personal boundaries are being respected. Be willing to talk about sexuality with your children. Educate them about sex by providing information that is appropriate for the child’s age. Most importantly, believe in your children when they come to talk to you about concerns and questions they may have. Research shows that it is extremely rare that children make up stories about sexual abuse just to cause trouble for other people.
Now the entry is over for this time. Please, take care of yourself and others. Thank you. See you if you wish to, next week.
You are welcome to comment if you like, but please do so with respect and good judgment.
© Helén Varenius – text and photo