Sometimes it feels as though you can’t protect your kids enough and that the conversations you have with them are too soon and too early. But you’re in great company, because I deal with that daily. I mentally dance the fine line of projecting my anxiety/fear on my child, and being too trusting of others around them. Yet this is something I strongly believe is a conversation you need to have to be ahead rather than respond to any potential incidents. And if I’ve taken anything from my time working in social work, it is the confidence to empower kids on demanding safety…especially because they are so vulnerable.
The greatest training I ever took was Good Touch, Bad Touch, and the tools from then on have shaped how I approach body safety with my boys. The concept of Good Touch, Bad Touch is helping children identify how various touches and interactions with others make them feel. More importantly how to categorize them as good/safe or bad/unsafe and harmful. Helping kids become more intuitive with themselves and those around them. The content is solid to work upon, even though the title can be a little vague.
From experiencing my own sexual abuse encounters, I desire most for my kids to not deal with that at any age (yes even as young adults). Since I know that not everyone has the opportunity or time to take a training, I believe that great knowledge is meant to be shared… and when it’s solid parenting knowledge, you tell all your friends. I will probably share two other posts similar to this with other tools, but to start off here are 3 tools that I believe can open the conversation, set a foundation, and empower you and your child towards body safety:
- Repeat after me: This is my body. The life of a child is full of directives and following what the adults or even other children around them ask/tell them to do. However, there is a boundary even as a small child. That boundary begins (yes begins) with their body. Helping your child understand that their body is their own and no one has the right to touch it without their permission is their first line of defense. Even when our boys play I remind them that if someone doesn’t like what they are doing it’s that person’s body and vice versa. No one has the right to touch you, and the only way they will know is if YOU tell them. Kids can be shy to say something, but it’s a mantra I have our boys repeat even though they laugh initially. Kids are easily socialized to not speak up sometimes, but this is one thing you want your kids to say loud and proud. Encourage your child to take ownership of their body, they only have one and it should be protected.
- Use actual terms for body parts.It’s awkward to hear my kids say “penis” and “vagina” sometimes, but I will tell you when our oldest came to me and told me that another child had inappropriately touched his penis without his permission, I was grateful we both knew exactly what he was talking about. Using the actual terms for body parts help kids become more comfortable with their body as well. It also helps when they need to share anything with you as a parent or tell a teacher an incident. Giving nicknames to parts is fine, we still use “pee-pee” – but it can get confusing. Just as well call a penis “pee-pee” we also ask the kids if they need to “pee-pee.” See what I mean? Having the distinct name for body parts aids greatly in your communication with your kids, trust me.
- Just because it feels good doesn’t mean it’s good. Biology lesson, our bodies are physiologically designed to respond to any and all touches. It’s our mind and social development that teaches/engages that good and bad concept. Just because things feel good, doesn’t mean they are good and most times grooming and other tactics used by others regarding sexual abuse heavily relies on how those touches/interactions feel. So this is where your conversation includes a deep breath and a lot more listening than responding. Asking your child more emotional based questions can help them determine if it was a good touch or bad.
- Did you feel happy, sad, scared, or worried?
But more than anything listen to what they share. Our kids don’t want to disappoint us, because in experiencing any physical interactions good or bad they can feel 100% responsible if it wasn’t positive. Reminding your child that these are tools, but more than anything it is our job as a parent to be mindful, vigilant, and proactive in who we surround our most vulnerable around is key.
I hope these small tools encourage you and your family to start having conversations about body safety. Celebrate all of the great touches in their lives and remind them you are the safest place to talk about anything.