More and more we are reading about child maltreatment in sports (e.g., Nassar and USA Gymnastics). The following are recommendations to make sure that your children and loved ones are safely participating in sports and activities:
What parents and caregivers should ask before starting a sport or activity (taken from the American Academy of Pediatrics):
Ask about how coaches and volunteers are screened (e.g., background checks, etc.)
Inquire about whether coaches and volunteers have received formal training on abuse prevention
Ask about policies and procedures, such as:
Bullying, harassment, and peer sexual assault
Mandated reporting (https://www2.illinois.gov/dcfs/safekids/reporting/Pages/index.aspx)
Heat exhaustion and dehydration
Return to play after injury (https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/return_to_sports.html)
Locker room restrictions
Away travel and sleeping accommodations
Social media use
Appropriate physical contact
No matter how old your child or loved one is, continued conversation about safety is extremely important. Talk to your child about safe and appropriate discipline, touching, and words, and keep checking in with them. Be clear with your child about which adult can do certain things with them- for instance, “now that you can go to the bathroom by yourself, you do not need a grown up to go into the stall with you.” Explain that while a coach may correct behaviors, they should not criticize them personally. Help your child find a ‘safe person’ that they feel comfortable talking to if you are not available (e.g., during travel).
Be proactive about asking your child and their coaches how things are going and keep the lines of communication OPEN. Talk with your child’s teammates and their parents, and make sure that everyone understands that there are no secrets. Safety is a group effort and it is important that everyone is on the same page.