For parents who discover that their child was sexually abused is a devastating and destabilizing reality. It’s like living a nightmare, yet you’re awake. Many questions arise and feelings transition from pain to blame to anger and a sense of grief. The roller coaster of emotions is all valid and it’s because of this that you should allow yourself the grace to go through the motions of those feelings so that you can help your child cope as well.
Regroup your thoughts and feelings. As you navigate your emotions, you’ll face a dominant sense which is blame. Although it’s reasonable to blame yourself, it’s not healthy. You may play the blame game in your mind, blaming everyone as a way to cope with the pain and reality. Playing the blame game is a false sense of alleviating the pain that you are feeling, but it’s not a long-term fix.
You must redirect your need to blame someone, whether it’s yourself, your child, the perpetrator or the situation. To redirect blame is to assign responsibility appropriately. How can you do this? Become proactive by talking to a therapist. At the end of the day, placing blame will not solve anything. Instead, it will lead you to live in constant rumination, which isn’t healthy for you or your child.
Reaction toward your child. Never react in front of your children by blaming them for the incident because the truth is that that sexual abuse is not something a child consents to, it’s something that’s done to them by force. If you ever find yourself wanting to blame your child because the sexual abuse they encountered happened in a moment where they broke one of your rules, breathe and refocus your thoughts. To blame a sexual abuse survivor is extremely damaging and may even add to the trauma they already have. What is your responsibility? To gather yourself, become educated, talk to someone that can help you cope with your own emotions, and help your child as they walk in their healing journey.
Your child’s emotional world is scrambled. The first feelings that a child encounters after sexual abuse are shame, guilt, and fear. Children feel at fault for the sexual abuse they’ve endured; they already blame themselves. So, blaming them will only magnify what they already think. Understand that although you may view your child as a victim, he or she sees themselves at fault.
For very young children, they understand what shame and blame feel like, but they cannot put a name to those feelings. As their parent, you must become equipped to speak to your children in their language, in a way that they feel like they can connect with you. You must talk less and listen more. Talking about sexual abuse is difficult because it’s a shameful experience, and it’s incredibly uncomfortable. Therefore, the best way to approach your child is to be completely supportive, provide as much comforting, and reassuring words as possible such as:
· I love you
· I’m here for you
· I believe you
· You are lovely, amazing, and remarkable
· I’m with you
· We are in this together
· You are not alone
· You are a beautiful human being
· You are loved
· You belong
· You are strong
· You can do all things
· This will pass
· There is a whole future ahead of you, and it’s bright
To best help your child and learn ways on how to best support him or her is by you getting the support that you need. You must become equipped to confront this reality head-on to help your child. The right communication with your child will make a world of difference.
Healing and Restoration. Your example and the way you choose to deal with the situation will be what determines the course of your child’s healing journey. Children learn to deal with their feelings by watching you deal with yours. You must know that your child can heal and lead a healthy lifestyle, but only with your support. Therefore, get the help and ongoing assistance that you need to help your child heal and thrive.