I recently got a text from a friend of mine. (We’ll call him Sebastian.)
I practically did a jig when I read Sebastian’s text. He and his wife are long-time friends…almost like family…so they know what I do for a living and we have had many conversations over the years. When I called him to talk about his question, he said, “See…I have learned some things from you through the years!”
Conversations matter! You hear me repeatedly ask (beg?) people to talk about child sexual abuse prevention. Now you can see why.
- It creates community and reduces a sense of isolation that can come with youth protection (all the cool kids are doing it!);
- It shows anyone who has ill-intent with your children that this is not something your family sweeps under the carpet; and
- We can actually learn from each other!
Back to the story…
“How do I communicate with this high school girl?” I honestly felt the angst in his question.
Let’s keep it simple…include her mother. “Of course!” exclaimed Sebastian. “Of course!”
Text the girl and ask for her mom’s cell number so you can create a group text. Then take a screenshot of said text so you can show (if ever needed) the content of your only 1:1 conversation with her.
Then start the group text explaining that because ‘girl’ is a minor, you’d like to include her mother in all conversations. That way the girl, her mom and you are all on the same page moving forward.
Not so much. You have no idea how much pushback I get on this policy/practice from organizations and coaches. Nobody ever has a good reason not to do this, other than…it’s not how they have always done it.
There shouldn’t be any out-of-program communication between coaches and minor athletes, and if there is program-related communication, make sure it isn’t 1:1. Include the whole team or your assistant coach or a parent.
If you are uncomfortable asking this question out-of-the blue, I have a few suggestions for you; feel free to pick whichever one most resonates with you.
- Please don’t be. Your most important job is protecting your child; not making a sports organization administrator comfortable.
- So? For some people, these conversations never become ‘comfortable’ so we have to figure out how to step through our discomfort to do what we need to do for our child.
- The best organizations have such a policy and are happy to answer this question.
If they don’t have a policy on coach and minor athlete communication? Then they probably don’t have any athlete protection policies & procedures, which is an entirely separate blog. This is the opportunity to let them know this is important to you and it’s something you will look for next season or next enrollment.
And, parents…whether the organization has this policy or not, please make it a family rule that if an adult ever reaches out to your child, they are expected to loop in mom or dad. They don’t have to make a big deal about it; they just add you to the communication. This should be the rule if your child is 6 or 16 years old.
When you’re ready, let me know when I can help your family, organization or community protect our youth with Child Sexual Abuse Prevention & Response Training or Youth Protection Policies & Procedures.