Q: At a meeting with social services last week, my husband and I were told that one of our nephews likely sexually abused our five-year- old son. Our son later confirmed this.
Social services were helpful and encouraged us to protect our son as much as possible, to not let him visit with the other family and to get counselling for him and us.
I understand the need to protect our child, but I am not sure that is going to fix the wrongs that have been done to him. We are open to any suggestions you might have for us.
A: Follow the advice from social services and get both yourselves and your son into counselling as quickly as possible.
This situation has been traumatizing and may influence your family for many years to come.
Hopefully, a sensitive counsellor will help you and your family resolve this relatively quickly and let all of you get back to enjoying time with your son. You do not want to let the trauma distract you from time with your family.
I doubt you will be much help to your son unless you deal with the guilt that is likely to jump into your own mental well being.
Often, parents feel responsible for what has happened to their children and spend a great deal of time punishing themselves, whipping their self esteem into a monument of personal inadequacy.
This is not necessary. Sexual predators, regardless of their ages, have mastered the fine art of deception and generally fortify their deception with horrific threats to the children they have victimized. The probability that you could have done much at the time to protect your child is low.
The difficult task is what happens now. You need to give your child a sense that the environment in which he is living is safer than it has ever been. You get that message to your child by reinforcing and fortifying the structure you have built for your family in your home.
Bedtimes and mealtimes need to be regulated. Letting your son off the hook because he has been traumatized and not turning off the television set at his usual bedtime might give him a moment of relief but it also breeds insecurity into your home, which is exactly what he does not need at this time.
If you do not have regular family meetings or times during the day when he has your uninterrupted attention, make sure that you make them happen. These are not times for you to reinforce teaching opportunities. These are his times and he should be allowed to say whatever it is he needs to say.
With any luck, he will talk about his bad experiences with his cousin, but he may not. If he does not want to talk during his special moment, at least give him the honour of sitting in silence with him for the designated times.
I also suggest that you read everything you can about what to expect from children five to 10 years old.
Don’t let his misguided cousin distract either you or your child from taking full advantage of what is an important time in his personal de-velopment.