A topic that you asked to hear our perspective on was body safety. Before we delve into the topic, let’s get the statistics straight. Do you know that one in four girls, and one in six boys are sexually abused by the age of 18? Pretty horrific statistic, right? But did you realize that most victims are abused by people they already know and trust? And 40 percent of victims are abused by other children who are usually older and stronger than they are.
So how do we protect our children? We have to equip them at a very young age with the right language and skills to be vigilant and aware.
Here are some tools you can use to lay the foundation for keeping your young children safe:
1. Teach children the anatomy of their bodies using proper terminology – which parts are private and which parts are not. Teach them the concept of privacy (where they get to do something alone, like get dressed or go to the bathroom, but Mommy and Daddy know about it). Then teach them the difference between something that is private, and something that is secret (a secret is something that is private, that Mommy and Daddy don’t know about). It is important to teach them that NO ONE is EVER allowed to tell them that ANYTHING is a secret when it comes to their bodies.
2. Teaching consent starts at a very young age. Teach children that their bodies are their own and show them you are serious about it! Children should NEVER be forced to hug or kiss relatives and friends. It is ALWAYS their choice. You can offer them alternatives like giving a high five. But ultimately, when it comes to their bodies, they are in charge, and they are always allowed to say “no.” Be sure to let friends and family know that you are creating this awareness in your child and ask them to please respect your child’s personal wishes.
3. Teach your child the difference between “safe touch” and “bad touch.” Feel free to use examples and role play. A doctor might need to examine a child and touch them in places that others don’t usually need to touch. When Mommy or Daddy are present, and allow this examination, this kind of touch is safe. But if someone ever tries to touch their bodies without Mommy or Daddy in the room, this is not safe touch, and they should say “No!”
4. They are always entitled to say “No” or “I don’t like that” or “Stop it!" They should never force themselves to do something uncomfortable for the sake of not offending someone else.
5. Let children know that they should always come to you IMMEDIATELY when someone else makes them uncomfortable, sad, confused or scared.
6. If your child comes to you, NEVER discount their credibility, or question their perception. It is critically important that a child ALWAYS feels believed, and that they NEVER feel judged. The first words a child needs to hear from a parent are: “I believe you!”
We are going to be posting more about body safety in the future. Have you started teaching your young children about ways to keep their bodies safe? What tools do you use?