Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are parents notified prior to a Happy Bear play at a child’s school?
A: Sunflower House fully supports parental notification prior to personal safety education programs in the school setting. To assist, Sunflower House provides the school with a sample letter and materials and requests that these be distributed before Happy Bear visits. Most schools also provide information on their website and newsletters. These materials inform parents on the topics discussed, statistics, a preview of the material, frequently asked questions, and a handout “What to do if a child tells you about abuse”. A video of the Happy Bear play can be found on Sunflower House’s website. Parents are encouraged to contact their school or Sunflower House staff with additional questions or concerns. We also offer a parent meeting, if desired, prior to a Happy Bear play, and are always open to parents attending the Happy Bear play or other classes offered older children.
Q: Do you obtain parental permission prior to scheduling a Happy Bear play for a child’s school?
A: We trust our education partners to know their parents and how best to communicate with them. We respect parental decisions to opt their child out but do not encourage requiring prior written approval because we know that for over 60% of the children we interview at Sunflower House the alleged perpetrator was a family member. Some schools require written permission, but most inform parents and do not require it for this reason.
Q: Why is it important to include the names of the private parts?
A: Children must understand that it is “OK” to say these words when talking about safety. Some children have been taught that talking about private parts is “bad” or “dirty.” This may hinder them from making a disclosure for fear of punishment for using “bad” words.
Although each family may use different names to label the private parts of the body, children should learn names that are universally understood if the child needs to ask for help. In some instances, a child’s initial disclosure is ignored when the child cannot communicate the details about the touching when he/she doesn’t have the proper language.
From Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Sharing the Responsibility: “We strongly encourage teaching children the names of all their body parts, including genitals. For ease of discussion, these parts can then be referred to collectively as ‘private parts.’” Happy Bear practices this philosophy.
Q: How do parents feel about the use of anatomical terms?
A: In a national survey of parents of children participating in personal safety/child sexual abuse prevention programs, 85% of respondents agreed that children need to be taught the correct names of their genitals.
Parents should, however, be provided with the rationale for use of these terms when their children will participate in such a program. This rationale is discussed during the Parent Meeting prior to the play.
Q: Can these programs cause Sexual Development Problems?
A: “There has been no research to address fully the concern about negative sexual development. However, some research has shown that program-exposed children do have more correct terminology for and positive feelings about their genitalia. Another study did not find any increase in sexual problems among adults who were exposed to prevention programs during childhood. However, prevention-education programs are not sexual education programs, and they typically have minimal discussions about sexuality of adults or children.” (Finkelhor 2007)