What’s What Wednesday: Talking to our children about body safety
Parents are often hesitant talking to their children about body safety. It is important for our children to build skills to stay attuned to their feelings and to protect their bodies. But, how do we do that without scaring our children or as some parents say, “Putting negative thoughts into their minds?”
Here are few ideas:
- Make sure your child knows “their body is theirs”; Children should know that their bodies are theirs; that they decide who touches them and the forms and levels of physical affection that feels comfortable to them. As parents, we model the behavior we want our children to learn, so listen to their words, if they don’t want a hug or to be touched we need to respect that.
- Help your children overcome their natural embarrassment; Often children abstain from saying anything to a grown up when they don’t like physical attention because they might feel embarrassed. This happens more often when the grown up is someone they know and their parents are present. As a parent, it is our responsibility to help our children understand that their safety and comfort is more important than anyone else’s embarrassment.
- Teach children the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching; Talk to your children about their private parts. Tell them these are the parts covered by their bathing suits and it is not okay for anyone to touch them. It s also not okay for anyone to ask a child to touch or see their private parts. Children can touch their own bodies but generally, other people should not. Talk about the exceptions to the rule: a medical examination, or a parent helping to clean or medically treat private parts.
- Tell children that it’s okay to change their minds; If they liked a hug yesterday, it is ok if they don’t want it today!
- Test their ability to say NO; when they don’t like the way someone is touching them, it is ok to say NO, along with phrases such as: “please stop touching me like that”, or “I don’t like that”, also it is okay to move away from the person.