Updated: Dec 28, 2020
One of the single greatest things we can do as parents to protect our children from predators is to lavish love on them.
The reason that 60 percent of all child sex trafficking victims have a history in the child welfare system is that traffickers target neglected youth. They are looking for the kid who slips through the cracks, who doesn’t receive much attention, and as a result, suffers from low self-esteem.
These hurting children are starved for love and predators recognize that and start off by offering affection, affirmations, and even gifts. From the eyes of a lonely youth, this predator is anything but! The young person will be quick to trust and this new source of love and acceptance, and in an attempt to protect such a special relationship the child will often keep the predator a secret. This sets the predator up to quickly and inconspicuously take advantage of the victim.
Parents combat this by setting such a high standard of what love looks like. We intentionally spend time with our children so that they aren’t lacking attention. We celebrate our children’s strengths and cheer them on when they try something new, this way they aren’t easily impressed by the praises of others. We place other safe adults in our children’s lives so that if there is something that they don’t feel comfortable telling us, they still have other trusted and responsible adults they can go to. We take interest in our children’s hobbies and friends, that way we are able to recognize if there is a sudden shift in either area which can both be indicators of possible negative influences. Of course, no parent does these things perfectly, but if we make them our goal and continue to work towards them, we are setting our children and our family up for relational health and mutual confidence in love. Children that are loved well are less likely to go out looking for love and less likely to be impressed with counterfeit affection.
Unfortunately love alone cannot ensure your child’s safety against predators, but all other preventative measures are greatly strengthened or weakened based on the love and self-worth a child has. In future blog posts, we will go over in-depth some of the other ways (such as teaching them warning signs, what to do if they suspect danger, how to be safe online, and how to signal for help in a worst-case scenario) that we can protect our children from harm's way.
However, for now, we are starting with the greatest of these which is love, so go love on your kid today (and every day after).