I Wish I Had A Patronus Charm

This weekend my son and I had a scripted heart-to-heart thanks to the Cub Scouts and his desire to earn his first badge.

While not exactly as heavy as the birds and bees, discussing “How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse,” the evils that could be lurking, and how to avoid/deal with them is tough, especially with a six year old. It’s the exact moment parents wish they could invoke the power of a Patronus Charm and create a guardian to protect children against predators.

With Halloween around the corner and creepy clowns literally on the prowl, this is the perfect time for children to learn how to use five, basic tools to lessen the odds of falling victim to a child predator:

Form a network of trusted adults.

Forming bonds with trusted adults makes it harder to be “groomed” by a predator. As my son rattled off the names of adults he trusted, I wondered did I trust them. Sexist or not, at the end of this exercise, his list consisted of only one man, his dad. Yes I know women can be creepers too, but the majority of sex offenders are male.

Check first and get permission from a parent first before leaving with another adult.

Statistics show that child predators get to know the child and family before they strike. Less than 15% of reported abusers are unknown. This was a fun one to test and in doing so I learned my son had no problem opening the front door to anyone and would hop in any car with the promise of Airheads candy. We spent extra time on this one and even created a code phrase that in an extreme situation would signal to him that I had given permission (kind of like a Dane Cook’s “No code, no go” but with a tad more seriousness).

Trust your gut and listen to the inner voice that says “this is weird\**.”**

Then create space between yourself and the adult in case you need to make a run for it. My son, always the goof, didn’t take this one too seriously. He said he’d just say “Expecto Patronum” and make the bad guy go away. That kind of made sense having just watched Harry Potter the night before, but perhaps he didn’t know what “creating space” meant so I decided to show him. At only 44 inches and 40 pounds, it was easy for me to grab and subdue him. For a man it would be a piece of cake. Not scripted in the pamphlet was what to do if he were grabbed by an adult. I told him to scream his head off, try to use his Taekwondo kick, and bite the holy crap out of any body part he could.

Avoid secrets.

This one was tricky. We can revisit this when he’s older, but basically kids need to know that if someone says “don’t tell your mom” or “let’s just keep this a secret between us” that certain someone is most likely up to no good.

Talk about touches.

I’ve always told my son that no one should touch his private place except for him, me (if I have to apply medicine), or a doctor (and only if either mom or dad is in the room). End of story.

All in all, “the talk” wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. At first I was skeptical about stealing my son’s innocence, but in the world in which we all now live, that theft may protect his life or, at the very least, save him from a creepy clown encounter.

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