Sometimes it feels as though you can’t protect your kids enough. Plus the conversations you have with them always feel 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. Yet I strongly believe body safety is a conversation you need to have. Truth is there are more than three reasons to talk about body safety.
Why body safety and boundaries are important
As a parent we need to be ahead rather than respond to any potential incidents. Sexual abuse and the beginning stages of it rarely begin later in life. If I’ve taken anything from my time in social work, it is to empower kids on setting boundaries. Especially because they are so vulnerable and are finding their voice.
My greatest training was Good Touch, Bad Touch. The tools from then on have shaped how I approach body safety and signs of sexual abuse with my kids.
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.
The Case for Body Safety
Advocating for personal boundaries doesn’t start when we’re adults, it begins when we are children. Often times I know personally the culture was to force children to express physical affection regardless of how they felt. For example, growing up latina my sister and I had to hug and kiss everyone. If we didn’t we were seen as rude or disrespectful. Sometimes what we believe is “rude” is a child attempting to set a boundary. So in order to shift that expectation, I want to encourage you to start NOW in changing that narrative.
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). Boundaries and being self aware are skills that will last a lifetime!
Since I know that not everyone can take a training, I believe that great knowledge is meant to be shared.
Start the body safety conversation now!
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?
Stay connected and alert
But more than anything listen to what they share. Our kids don’t want to disappoint us. Sometimes in experiencing any physical interactions good or bad they can feel 100% responsible. With help, your child has tools. More than anything it is our job as a parent to be mindful, vigilant, and proactive in who we let close to our kids.
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!
Remind them you are the safest place to talk about anything.