teaching children


My children are at an age where they are more involved in church activities and on the cusp of spending time in the church without me. I’ve tried to explain to them that there may be bad people in the church just as there are in any other organization such as camp and scouts. My concern is that they don’t seem to get it when it comes to priest. In fairness I have never told my children a priest could be a “bad person” but I have told them everyone, including priest, sin. I know my children look up to our parish priest and I love that they do. He seems to be a great person who has committed his life to helping us find Jesus. But as a parent I always worry. What if I am wrong and he isn’t the wonderful priest I think he is. I don’t want my children to go running from a room when the priest enters but I want them to understand the potential danger. At the same time I want them to be comfortable reaching out to our priest of they ever need someone to guide them.

Anyone have any reference guide on how I can broach the topic with them? They range in age from 7 to 12

Thank you

Your parish may have some good resources for you…
The US Bishops have also put out a lot of good information:


Actually, from that page I found this link with some perfect resources!!

Blessings on your day and thank you for sharing!

Your problem (as I see it) is not with your children but you need to make yourself familiar with your parish policies and make sure you are comfortable with them Find out what church policy is about adults being left alone with children. In my parishes here NO adult can ever be left alone with a child. This rule also applied to my son’s boyscout troop through our home parish. My husband was a volunteer and was told in no uncertain terms could he ever be alone one-on-one with a child EVER.

I beleive the preparation that you can give your children, well, is minimal at best however this is just my own personal opinion. I have attended workshops, training sessions and read materials telling parents that we should coach our children into “JUST SAY NO” and that they should run away from potential abusers. You should know I beleive this line of defense is very faulty (just my two cents). It places the responsibility for safety on the backs of our children. Child molesters know our defenses and how we train our children. Child predators primary tool is manipulation. Most seven-year-old children are not going to “out-manipulate” an adult which is why despite self-defense training many young children have found themselves in a position where they were manipulated and in a location where “running away” was not a possibilty.

Just my two cents and people may or may not agree with me. Just wanted to put that forth so you can dig deeper into your parish policies. Making sure the adults there have submitted to background checks and to what their policies are being alone with children. I would of course warn my children if they ever felt uncomfortable around someone please let me know, I just don’t think our young ones can shoulder the responsibility for their own safety and be expected to get away.

God bless hope this helps a little.

There is no reason a child should be alone with any adult in order to participate in any parish activity other than confession. I think that if you have told them what to do if an adult makes them uncomfortable then you’ve done your job. If you kids are in an activity where they spend alot of time alone with someone, I would pull them from that activity.

There is no reason a child should be alone with any adult in order to participate in any parish activity other than confession. I think that if you have told them what to do if an adult makes them uncomfortable then you’ve done your job. If you kids are in an activity where they spend alot of time alone with someone, I would pull them from that activity.

POD. And even confession can be done before a glass window, or on the other side of a room, if need be.

They should know that they are not allowed to be alone (away from the group) without another adult, or the group they are in.

They should be comfortable tell you all about (camp, CCD, etc), and you can then listen and pick out anything that sounds off for them to expand on. or ask the teacher for clarification on.

If ANYTHING seemed odd, and gives you bad feelings- even with a reasonable explanation- I’d pull the child.

There is usually much grooming of these children prior to their abuse. Keep open communication with your children :slight_smile:

Correct. This is how abuse happens. There is no reason you should ever put your child in the care of another adult in order to participate in a parish activity. You should be there.

I highly recommend the book “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin DeBecker.

With all due respect, why are you so concerned with your child being alone with specifically a priest??? If you said your kids are at a age where they are not always under your supervision and you want to make sure they are always safe, that would be one thing. But priest in particular? Yes priest are sinners but I honestly don’t think that makes them more of a threat than the man walking his dog in the park where children play.

With all that said and done, I do agree with other posters about keeping communication open and teaching them to not go some where without your permission.

This is a funny story, but my mom had it drilled into my head to never take off my clothes unless it was bath time or time to change into my PJs. When I was 5 I was playing hide and seek a boy told me he knew of a good hiding place. When we got there he asked me to pull down my pants. I told him my mom didn’t want me to. He responded ‘I asked your mom she said it was OK’. So I said ‘Let me run home and double check and if she says it is OK, I will come back and pull down my pants’. :blush: The boy just ran away.

All that to say, driiling something into a kid’s head works

Also, I am will forever be thankful to my mom for this. Every 6 months or so, she used to ask me if ever anyone tried to touch my privates. I though she was so stupid and I remember feeling like I had to explain the social etiquette to my mom that you just didn’t do that. Nontheless, every 3-4 months she would ask. Now that I am older, I know why she asked and I am grateful

Thank you for sharing your story, and I am glad your experience as a child was empowering for you. However with all due respect I disagree that this way of “teaching” a child is going to protect them. First of all the person that dared you to take down your pants was another child and you had the opportunity to run home. Things are different when it is a scout leader and you are far away on a camping trip, or some other circumstance where you have grown to trust this adult and you are trapped.

Teaching our children privacy about their body parts is crucial, however I have had personal experience with this situation (for privacy reasons prefer not to say how) and would urge extreme caution. We should not frame things in such a way as to make our children feel as if they are responsible for keeping themselves safe. Children could easily (after having been violated) feel as if they were wrong or let their parents down does this make sense?

Also programs that urge children to run and say “no” are not useful. Think of it this way, most children are abused at home! This is a place where they can’t really say “no” and run. Not that there isn’t hope however, there is hope! The hope is in adults watching out for children and background checks and systems in place where the adults are working together to protect our children. Adults in a program should never be one-on-one with a child, not in this day and age. Adults should be watching out for suspicious behavior. Adults should have programs for children where there are checks and balances to ensure the safety of children. Nothing is perfect or foolproof but in nearly every circumstance in recent history where we can see there was widespread child abuse it could have been stopped if the adults involved had done the right thing. Just my two cents.

Agreed. The dangers your child faces at a public school are many times what you may face in any other situation. There are more sexual assaults on children every year in US public schools than have ever been alleged against the Catholic Church in the last 50 years.

There was a report put out by the US Dept of Education about 8 years ago documenting this “quiet” tragedy and how school boards and teachers unions do their best to ensure no one is prosecuted or even lose their license to teach.

Hi Monicad,

I totally understand the point you are making. Perhaps I should change my statement to ‘drilling something into a kids head is one method of keeping kids safe’. And yes, there are a lot of other aspects to protecting children.

As for your example of a kid being abused at home. As much as that is true, that is not the topic of this post. The OP obviously wants to protect her children outside of the home and that is the focus here.

The point is about ‘drilling’. If parents drill it inot their kids head they can tell them anything at all, then kids won’t believe someone who says ‘Don’t tell your mom she will get mad’

I have often taken other people’s kids with me shopping or to the park. That is because the parents got to know me and trust me. I am so sorry for the personal experience you had. But at the end of the day, we need to trust our judgement. I was a live in nanny for a woman who was constantly telling me ‘You never know who is weird and that is why I am always asking my daughter is Daddy did something to her’ IMO that is not a marriage at all and if the wife was truly concerned she should leave the husband


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, sorry to the original poster if my response seemed to veer off of your topic. I was not trying to derail your thread by mentioning that most kids are abused at home, clearly your question was about activities outside the home and sorry if I didn’t make my point more clearly.

In the original post the concern was how could one “broach the topic with one’s children” and seemed to be seeking better ways on how to prepare children to keep themselves safe. My emphasis was that this was not a good approach in the first place and true safety comes from not preparing children but from preparing adults and being thorough on where children are going.

Drilling is not necessarily a bad idea, however no matter how often children are drilled they are unlikely (in my opinion) to outwit a predator that is an adult and a most clever manipulator. Hope this clears up what I meant to really say. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts.

I don’t know… this sounds like ‘worst first’ thinking to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely agree that children need to be taught that 1. they should never go anywhere someone unless THEY have personally asked a parent and it was agreed that it was okay and 2. they need to listen to that little voice inside of them that is going to help them know if they are in danger or not.

They need to be taught that private parts are private, that no one has any business seeing them except mom and dad and the doctor if mom and dad have said that’s okay.

They do need to be taught that there are adults out there who may try and hurt them, but that most adults don’t do that. The ones that do could be anywhere, though, and they need to remember that little voice and always talk to mom and dad about things that make them uncomfortable, because it’s my job to help him figure out if something is right or wrong when he isn’t sure.

BUT… this whole idea of ‘stranger danger’ and raising kids to be scared of everyone they meet and scared of life in general concerns me more. The chances of them actually being assaulted by a priest are very low… but now they are going to be taught that they have to be scared of every priest they meet because they might be touched inappropriately? Ditto for all other adult groups.

Kids should not be taught to live in fear. And it’s an injustice to the priesthood and adults in general that kids are being taught that grownups/strangers are bad.

Hi Monicad, I want to thank you as well for letting me share your thoughts. I guess my confusion is I am not 100% sure I understand what you mean by ‘preparing adults’. Are you saying all adults should be taught ‘don’t even be alone with someone else’s child?’ Or are you saying ‘Parents need to be taught how to protect their children’

I think most parents (well at least I hope most parent) are quite conscious of where they children are and only let them go out with trusted adults. But anyway you look at it, at some points parents need to let go. I am sure it is hard but it does happen eventually


I heartily second! :thumbsup:

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