Parenting expert talks about how to communicate with children about body safety

John Carter (Source: Angelina County Jail)
John Carter (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - We told you yesterday about a former Pineywoods Community Academy counselor who is charged with attempted possession of child pornography. That counselor is John Carter, 42, of Huntington.

Police started looking into Carter after he reportedly engaged in inappropriate conversations with a student, prompting a concerned parent to go to police, where they say they discovered searches for child porn on Carter's computer.

The attempted possession of child pornography and conversation between Carter and the student are not related.

KTRE talked with a parenting expert at Harold's House who explains how parents can communicate and educate their children about these type of situations.

In the 14-page affidavit that accompanied former Pineywoods Community Academy counselor, John Carter's arrest, police say they believe Carter was grooming a young girl for abuse.

A tactic that community education director at Harold's House, Ashley Cook says is very well-known in these type of situations.

"It can start with small touches or asking a child to sit on their lap or buying them gifts or talking to them and using sexual words and they're kind of testing to see a child's reaction so as a parent you can teach your child that any kind of things like that you should never that an adult should not do that with you," said Cook.

Cook says talking with your children consistently and in small windows is key to keeping the communication lines open.

"First of all is to ave the communication with your child where you tell them, does anyone ever make you uncomfortable or asks you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable…if that happens come and talk to me," said Cook.

Cook also suggests teaching children that no adults should ever ask a child to keep secrets from their parents or caretaker by sharing examples of bad secrets.

"An example of a bad secret would be if an adult touches you in an uncomfortable way, touches your private area and then says don't tell mom or dad anything about it."

And good secrets…

"A good secret would be one that everybody is going to know about like tomorrow is Aunt Susie's birthday so we're going to throw her a surprise party so we're not going to tell her today but tomorrow everybody is going to know," said Cook.

Cook says she recommends a lifetime of communication with your children about body safety.

"So what we recommend is to have a lifetime of communication with your child about body safety and it begin at the youngest age, potty training age, with teaching them the correct names of the body parts for the private area, teaching them what is their private area. You can teach them in little ways, I like to call them little windows of conversation because children's attention span can be short," said Cook.

"You can teach them things like anything that my bathing suit covers is my private area and that belongs to me and other adults are not allowed to touch that and you should also tell them that no one should ask me to look at or touch their private area," said Cook.

Cook also says if a child comes to you and tells you something concerning try to under-react.

"Under-react if a child does come and tell you something concerning because if you're angry and upset, which is a natural reaction when a child comes and tells you something concerning, if you can focus on under-reacting, the child is more likely to share more with you because they're not scared and they don't feel like you're angry at them," said Cook.

And of course, Cook says if any parent or caretaker has any concerns about their child's safety she recommends contacting law enforcement or the CPS hotline (1-800-252-5400), if there is suspicion about abuse.

"Generally, if one child is in danger, it's a very strong possibility that more children might be in danger in any given situation where there might be an abuser and so you're helping more than your child you might be able to help someone else's child," said Cook.

Harold's House offers parenting classes as well as an array of other services free to the community.

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