Teaching My Child About Body Safety
How do you protect your child(ren) from sexual abuse? The results from National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children conducted last 2015 shows that about 17% of children experienced any form of sexual violence while growing up. From these, 13.7% suffered sexual abuse at home.
Let it sink in for a moment. Writing that first block made me cringe. Researching and going through the statistics is another story. And like you, I feel exceedingly uncomfortable talking about this. But I believe that we must openly converse about it to raise awareness and take preventative measure. Because as much as we want to ignore it, it is happening.
The world is dangerous and scary, but I can’t contain my daughter in a protective bubble. I could not always be there to look after her or defend her from harm. The best way that I can do is to educate and empower her, so she can speak up and protect herself.
1 | Consent and Respect
“Would you like to give her a hug or a kiss? No? How about a high five?” - This is our way of asking consent and respecting our daughter’s personal space.
When Summer turned eight months, we became more cautious in practising and modelling consent. We never forced her to give a hug or a kiss to anyone, even with very close relatives. Early on, we taught her that she can choose to do whichever makes her feel comfortable. That she is not obliged to please anyone physically, just to show her love and respect. That it is totally acceptable to say NO if she doesn’t want any physical contact. Modelling and practising this also taught her to give the same kind of respect to anyone.
2 | Listen and Trust
Always immediately listen to your child and to whatever your child is saying. Looking and being present gives your child a confirmation that you are approachable and they can trust you with their thoughts and feelings, no matter how big or small.
3 | No Secrets
In our family, we have a no-secret policy. Early on, Summer knows that she can say anything and everything to us because we listen and believe her, the same way that she trusts us.
Remember that most perpetrators will tell a child to keep the abuse as a secret. They can say it either in a friendly way or as a threat. Therefore it is essential to practice and teach your child about "fun secrets" (we call it surprises) and "bad secrets".
Give your child clear examples of each and ensure that he/she will not get in trouble in telling you any of those.
4 | Body Parts and Body Boundaries
Girls have vagina and boys have a penis, and these body parts are private. Is it hard to say? Well, it should not. Because body parts, especially the private ones, are not taboo or something to be ashamed of.
Talk about body parts early on and use the correct names. Respond to your child's curiosity, guide them and make it an exciting learning experience.
When Summer got curious about penis and what it looks like, we turn to art book. We showed her sketches of male and female forms and guided her on the differences she perceived. We again pointed out which body parts are private and explained what it means to be private. We told her that no one should touch, take photos or videos of her private parts. And that no one should ask her to touch, to watch videos or to look at pictures of somebody else's.
5 | Establish Safety Network
Safety Network is simply five adults that your child trusts the most. These are the people that would listen and believe to anything your child confides in.
As for my daughter, her safety network is Mommy, Daddy, Wowa (GrandMa), and NayNay (Auntie Jennifer). She only has four adults as of this writing, and it is okay. The important thing is, she is able to identify the persons she can run to in case Mommy and Daddy are not around.
6 | Use Helpful and Relatable Materials
Books are an integral part of our teaching and family bonding. Therefore it makes sense that I search for books that can help me teach my child more about body safety, in an engaging and not scary way.
I bought these books two years ago, and it taught our family a lot about body safety. Initially, I felt uneasy reading it aloud because of content that reminds me of unwanted touches I have experienced in the past. But going through the book with my daughter makes me braver little by little, knowing that I am also empowering her and encouraging her to have a strong, confident voice.
What I love about these books is a good storyline, with straightforward lessons that can be easily understood by young children and study questions at the end. I really hope that schools have these materials too and teach body safety to students. In that way, consent, respect and boundaries are strongly enforced to kids both at home and in school. Which then hopefully will make a better generation of adults and a safer community.
I hope you find this post helpful! Let’s work together in shaping the future generation that know how to respect each other, shall we? In case you’re wondering, I ordered the books from Amazon.
I also highly encourage you to visit the official website of Educate2Empower Publishing, a niche publisher specialising in children's books and resources that focus on CONSENT, GENDER EQUALITY, RESPECTFUL RELATIONSHIPS and BODY SAFETY EDUCATION, to see the other great books they offer.
How do you approach body safety education? If you have books or materials to recommend, share them in the comment section below!