Story 7: Sophie's Story
Dear Engaged Bystander: You may have this experience too. When you do this work, friends and family call to talk about situations they face with their kids and often ask for advice. My brother who is a family practice doctor has the same experience...
A few years ago, a good friend of mine talked with me about a new family who just moved into the neighborhood. Her 5 year old daughter, Sophie, was excited to finally have a playmate her own age on the same street. The boy was 6.5 and they soon became friends, playing almost every day. But soon Sophie was not so excited about playing with the little boy. When my friend asked her about it, Sophie said that the boy wanted to play "pants down games" with her and she just did not feel comfortable with that.
So my friend gave Sophie lots of love for talking with her about something that was difficult. My friend talked with Sophie about how it really was OK to say no and all of the lessons of appropriate touch.
My friend asked me what she should do.
I talked with her about all of the things she had done right. Told her it was great that she noticed the change and that it was fabulous that Sophie felt comfortable talking with her about this issue. I also told her that it was fabulous that she knew enough and felt comfortable enough to teach about appropriate touch.
I also made some suggestions about using the correct names for body parts, etc. When my friend asked what else she should do, I suggested that she talk with the boy's mother.
My friend's reaction was immediate. "I can't do that."
I took a deep breathe and explained to her that "talking with the neighbor is exactly what she just asked her daughter to do." And her daughter has to talk with someone who is much bigger and much older than she is. I went on to explain that if she can ask her daughter to talk with the boy, then my friend certainly can try to talk with the mother too.
My friend took another week to do it, but she did have that conversation with the other mom. She told me it was hard, but it went really well. She also said it helped that the neighbor mom was a nurse and felt comfortable talking about this topic.
Having those difficult conversations is often what being an engaged bystander is all about. In this case, my friend really pushed her own limits and created a safer environment for her daughter and for this little boy too.