A Difficult Conversation


“Whose house are you going to?”  I ask as she is about to walk out the door.

“Sarah’s,” my girl says as she steps into her flip flips.

“Is her mom home?”

“No, Jason’s watching them.”

“I don’t want you in their house if their mom isn’t there.”


“No going inside with a parent!” I say emphatically.

I have given my oldest daughter a lot of freedom since moving from suburban New Jersey to coastal North Carolina.  Our town, which has a Mayberry feel, is quiet in the off season but not deserted.  The neighbors look out for one another yet politely mind their own business. It’s the kind of place where kids ride bicycles together after school until parents call them home for dinner.

I am not a helicopter parent or one who worries incessantly about “bad things happening to my kids.”  I err much more on the side of being that “free range” mom who gives my children as much independence as I believe they can handle.  I don’t subscribe to the thought that there is a child abductor lurking behind the corner of every school bus stop or a gunman about to barge into their classroom.  Yes, these things fall into the realm of possible in my mind but not probable. I believe that nine times out of ten, my child, when out in the world without me, is safe.

However, as her parent, it’s my responsibility to prepare her for what would potentially be that “tenth” time.

This fall, while using the above dialogue with my daughter as a segue, I had a very frank discussion with her about sexual assault.  I didn’t have this discussion to scare her. Conversely, I wanted to give her information that would empower her so that she can make safe and wise choices when I am not around.

Today, I’m writing about our discussion on Ten to Twenty Parenting, a website dedicated to topics associated with raising tweens and teens.

Discussing rape with my daughter was not an easy conversation. It’s such a blunt and ugly topic, explaining to a child who has just recently learned about sex to begin with, that it is something that can be used as an act of violence. There are so many fine lines we walk as parents, when to protect, when to let go, and when to let go but with words of caution.  I’d love to know how you manage this, how you walk this line. I welcome you to join me over at Ten to Twenty for your thoughts and comments.




A Difficult Conversation — 50 Comments

  1. i know I have many years ahead of me before I have to have this conversation, but it one I do not look forward to. I think I was about 6 years old when I first learned the word rape because of some celebrity who had been arrested for it…I can only imagine what was going through my mother’s head when I asked her what it meant.
    Bev recently posted…Uni-T: An Interview with Eujin NeilanMy Profile

  2. Yeah – Caroline and I have had to have that conversation a couple of times, and we’ll have to have it a couple more before she processes it. She loves the world. Which means she hugs everyone in it. Including men she barely knows, most of whom feel awkward and reciprocate only slightly. But the booby fairy visited this summer, and so even her male teachers aren’t comfortable having her throw her arms around them anymore. I know what appearance they’re afraid of, but explaining it to someone who thinks hugs are the superbestestevercureforeverything is not easy.
    Jester Queen recently posted…Letting GoMy Profile

    • Yeah, if she love to hug like that then I understand why the talk is needed often. It’s so hard. I hated taking away my daughter’s “innocence” with this talk. But she needs to have good information. It can make all the difference.

    • Thanks, Nicole. I really had no idea we were going to have the talk that day until the opportunity presented itself to me. And I dreaded it too – and it’s not over. I’m sure it’s the first of many.

  3. You and I seem to share very similar parenting ideologies. While I don’t want to instill fear and worry in my child, I want her to be cautious and to know that Mommy should be notified of any wrongdoing. Unlike you, we don’t live in a Newberry type of town and I am a Mama Tiger ready to protect, and if necessary, pounce. I figure we only get one chance to raise our children. I try to walk the same line my mother did: “grow and let go,” but be there to guide and instill values.
    Andrea recently posted…Not Cursed, Just a Byproduct of Bad Decisions?My Profile

    • It’s a fine line to walk, Andrea, right? I don’t want my girl to feel like the world is a “dangerous place” yet at the same time, she needs to be aware of the dangers. And yes, grow and let go. Little by little, this is what we are doing.

  4. Headed over there now. I need to read this. We have barely broached this topic, because like you we just really had the sex talk. But I know it is very important to discuss this. VERY. Thank you for being so candid.-Ashley

    • Thanks Ashley. It was awkward and difficult and I’ll second guess it for a long time – but glad I got through it – at least the first one of three like that, and then all of the reinforcement talks as well.

  5. Some of the topics that I’ve had to discuss with my son, I didn’t even realize would be an issue – chatting/skyping with virtual strangers. I felt a bit hypocritical because in essence, I do the same thing every time I blog but I “know” y’all!!! This was someone from an online-game that he started skyping (not with video) – I told him that the 15 year old girl could be anyone of any age.
    I don’t even know how I would go about the whole sexual assault topic!
    Kim recently posted…Am I Old?!My Profile

    • Oh wow – I have not even thought of that kind of stuff yet – but I know it’s coming. The online world is so scary. They do a lot in the lower grades at school now to talk about it. Cyber safety – so new to me! But so necessary!

  6. We haven’t even finished the “where babies come from” talk! I’ve been trying to tell Frances only as much as she is curious about or interested in and even with some gently prodding, she’s never asked any of those questions. This isn’t a discussion I look forward to, but I can certainly see the importance of it.
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted…Finding the Sacred in the ProfaneMy Profile

    • I had to have the sex talk with my oldest earlier than I had wanted to thanks to the school playground a few years ago – but the assault talk had to happen. She’s on her own too much now not to know.

  7. Good for you!! I wish my mom had a “frank” discussion with me when I was young. As painful as it is, I agree that we have empower our kids with these kind of discussions. I can’t wait for this with the twins. I’m sure there will be a lot of “ewww gross, mom!” If so, job well done.
    Allie recently posted…My MeltdownMy Profile

    • I think that’s how I learned about rape too! And I kind of got it but not really. You were confused, I was confused. I am sure my daughter is still a little confused too..

    • I love that I feel comfortable giving my girl so much freedom, which you can probably understand, but I feel like there is certain information that has to go along with that. Always a balance, I suppose!

  8. These conversations are always so difficult. You walk this line where you want them to be informed but yet are afraid that by telling them that they will wake up out of that innocent euphoric childlike sate. There never seems to be a good answer for these things.
    Carla recently posted…Michelle Bridges and MeMy Profile

    • Carla – you nailed it. It’s this in between place of not wanting to ruin her idealism but at the same time, arm her with good information. So hard to strike that perfect balance.

  9. As an overcomer of childhood sexual abuse please please please be sure to also tell your daughter that it isn’t always the big bad boogie man. I am so glad that you are still giving her the ability to know you are there for her with anything.. period.
    Southern Angel recently posted…A full tiring weekMy Profile

    • I could not agree with you more and what an excellent point to emphasize to her! That the majority of abuse is by someone close. So scary but so true.

  10. It’s frightening that these conversations seem to need to be held earlier and earlier in a child’s life. It’s scary that we need to have them at all but we don’t want our children growing up in a bubble.

    It’s hard not to think of shattering the innocence of childhood when having these very necessary conversations but I imagine with a parent like you, your daughter felt supported, loved and protected even though the subject matter was scary.

    As a parent of a 6 year old, I’m in denial that I’ll need to have these discussions and for a short while I can play the ostrich. I know that soon enough I’ll have to have one of many difficult conversations and I hope that words like yours will help me find my own words.

    Thanks for sharing Ilene.
    Melissa Burton recently posted…4 Days in NYC – Almost A Hugh Grant MovieMy Profile

    • Thank you for that Melissa. I want to be the ostrich too! It’s so much simpler. But you will know when the time is right to divulge certain things to your child. As moms, we always know.

  11. I’m still a ways from this (though, in reality, I probably closer than I feel I am). That line of when to protect them and when to let go and, I love how you put this, when to let go but with words of caution – it is so so tough and I’m sure it just gets harder. Can’t wait to read your article!
    Tricia recently posted…Driving to schoolMy Profile

    • Letting go can be hard – but I am also really proud of some of the decisions my girl has made independently. It’s a neat process.

  12. That is such a frightening conversation to have with a child. We’ve always talked to our daughter about inappropriate touching. My husband and I (especially my husband) are extremely over protective when it comes to men/boys and our daughter. I definitely will be checking out that website. Seems like a great resource.
    Hope recently posted…My Top 3 Germ-a-peevesMy Profile

    • Ten to Twenty is a great resource and covers a wide range of topics for this age group. It’s great! And yes, the talk was tough to get through – but I think as parents we know when to hold back and when to divulge. I’m glad I listened to my gut on this one.

    • I hate the the world is this way too. But I’d rather her know her risks than sugar coat. I also want her to understand why she needs to be careful when I’m not around.

    • Thanks Nellie. Oh how I wish I just could have “implied!” But my girl needs details. In the end, I’m glad we had the talk and that she “knows.”

  13. My daughter is much to young for me to have this conversation with but I always imagine how hard it would be tell her those sort of things. How do you tell them about rape and inappropriate behavior without killing their innocence and yet how do you not empower them to protect themselves.
    We (my mom and I) never talked about these things, but I think the times have changed and such conversations need to be had.
    So glad you are taking that step
    Shefali recently posted…Spring CleaningMy Profile

    • She was ready for this kind of talk. I have two younger children and they are not ready for this kind of talk. I think as parents we know when they are ready for certain types of information. But yes, it’s a tough line to walk!

  14. I love that you “free range parent” – my mum was like this with me and it really created a strong bond of trust and friendship. I never resented her for missing out and I never lied to her about where I was going, because she was ok with it as long as she knew where I was. I have always always appreciated her parenting style, I hope I can replicate it to some extent with my kids.
    And good on you for taking on this discussion, necessary but challenging I bet!
    Jess recently posted…Update on Raid Automatic Blogger Project and Giveaway!My Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge