Help! My Kid’s a Pervert
Posted by CiteSimon
James used to love hanging out with his older brother, Colin, although Colin usually resented having to put up with his kid brother going everywhere he went. Four years is a big age difference when you are thirteen and you kid brother is just nine. You have a lot more experience in the world and you know answers to questions that have never even entered his little mind. It feels good to be big. But the kid is a real nuisance hanging around all the time. One day, Colin struck on the ideal solution and he decided to teach James some new ways to play.
Kathy was puzzled by James. He didn’t seem to want to go anywhere with Colin today. She’d never known him to be so standoffish. She had to make that important meeting and now James didn’t want to stay home with Colin. He didn’t want to do any of his usual things but he was being difficult and wouldn’t say why. Nothing was distracting him and the time for the meeting was looming, so she decided she would have to push the issue and let the boys work out what to do – she had to go.
A couple of weeks didn’t make any difference. Kathy had hoped that James would get over whatever was bugging him about Colin but he didn’t. He seemed to be going to extremes to avoid being left with Colin. She asked Colin if he knew what was up but he just shrugged and said he had no clue. He said some other things that brothers say about each other but she knew to ignore those. She was none the wiser for her efforts.
Life seems to save up problems to dump on us at its leisure but she wasn’t ready for what came next: James started deliberately missing the afternoon school bus. She really didn’t have time for this! It was hard enough fitting in her job and trying to raise her sons while she was both mother and “father,” handyman, laundry queen, head buyer and family CEO, but when he missed the bus, she had to squeeze in the extra drive to school to get him on her way home from work. This was annoying! Big-time annoying and he heard plenty of her thoughts on it all the way home. Most kids would get the idea that it’s better to catch the bus than to catch a dose of irate mom, but not James. He missed the bus the next day too.
The color drained from her face as she heard the words before it surged back in fiery anger. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing as the School Counselor broke the news. Her James had been busted for trying to touch a girl “inappropriately” – “Nine-year-olds don’t do that,” she protested, but apparently they did. Other girls said he’d tried it on them. “So that’s why he keeps on missing the bus,” she thought. Her angry thoughts began to flood her mind with so many punishments that she hardly heard the Counselor telling her James needed help. He’d really need help after she was through with him!
Variations on this story are repeated daily. Parents like Kathy are faced with embarrassing reports like this and the fallout that follows. Kids like James struggle to work out how to handle problems they didn’t ask for from people they trusted without “spilling the beans” about what is really going on. Their fallout continues through the rest of their lives and most often they do their best to deal with it in secret – no one ever knows.
Here’s some thoughts for Kathy as she tries to deal with James:
Making too much of it – driven by our own fears and insecurities, building fear and distrust instead of bridges. How we react tells the kid the real story we are thinking – opening doors or slamming them forever. No need to plunge into self-flagellation about what a rotten parent you are . . . it’s not about you or your mistakes.
Not making enough of it – your kid drops a morsel to test how you react. When kids tell something sexually specific or say how they don’t want to be with a certain relative . . . it’s time to LISTEN to them. It’s not a kid being weird, it’s a muted plea for help. And before you can help, you have to get ALL the facts – half-information and leaping to conclusions will prove very costly to all parties.
Like it or not, you are dealing with a victim who may still be exposed to his or her abuser yet lacks the experience or vocabulary to recognize what is going on. Your reactions are setting the kid’s reactions and self-perceptions – acting out your own insecurities gives you the chance to regret your action forever while not putting an absolute stop to the abuse puts the victim straight into living hell.
What has been done cannot be undone – life has changed now [like it or not] and you are forced to work through all the tentacles of ramifications and consequences. It’s inconvenient but it is what it is. Welcome to complexified parenthood!
You’ll have to work out how to reach out to siblings who also may have been affected. As you keep working with the sexualized child you must also keep relating to the unaffected siblings – building better protection for them while not spreading trauma or fear – avoiding unnecessary disclosure while disclosing enough to protect them. Tough call.
You’ll have to work out how to deal with perpetrators / abusers in your family circle and you’ll need to treat this seriously and adequately. For an adult it’s clearly a crime and needs to be dealt with on that level – hard to do if it’s grandpa, and especially so if you have memories of his activities in your own life-story, or your sibling’s partner, or your brother or . . . This is not for the faint of heart, the repercussions will ring for years to come, yet it can’t be ignored – your kid will not be his or her only victim and despite what you want to believe, it won’t stop with your kid. There’s always more.
And another thing to remember about the perpetrator is that he/she may have also been abused early in life and what is happening is the downstream revelation of the coping mechanisms of a chid who never got any help. It’s still wrong but . . .
What advice do you have for Kathy?
About CiteSimonSometimes we find the "right answers" but maybe it's the struggle of discovery that helps us grow most.
Posted on October 19, 2012, in Relationships, Self-awareness and tagged acting out, child abuse, helping the victim, identifying the victim, parenting skills, Sexual abuse, sexual experimentation, siblings, single parent challenges. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.