Body safety! Why parents need to talk about it to their children, from toddlers to teens.
So you have taught your child about how essential it is not to run on to the road? How to stay away from pools unless an adult is accompanying them? How to take care of sharp objects and glass? There are so many things we caution our children about, right from when they start toddling around. From toddlers to teens we tell them to study, eat, play, speak everything in ways that will keep them safe and cause them no harm. But how often do we talk about their bodies and body safety?
So what is body safety and what do we say? We have been conditioned not to say much about bodies because we take them for granted and we are also embarrassed about such conversations. What does a young child know about body parts and private parts etc.? Well, if we talk to them about it, they will learn about it and then know how to talk about their bodies, why they should not get body shamed and also protect themselves from anyone who violates their bodies.
Start young – We often babble to babies about their noses and eyes and hands, asking them to identify them to us. This is a great beginning. Continue with more parts as the child gets older, and even toddlers can learn about private parts. Tell them the correct names and let them say them after you.
Avoid baby names or obscure names. Say it as it is. Identify private parts with proper names so that the child can also identify it as easily to anyone in case it’s needed. ‘My stomach pains,’ is so much easier to understand than if the child says ‘My tum-tum pains.’
Explain clearly what private means. The cheek or head is not private. And you can remove a cap off your head in public. But you use a toilet to change underwear because it covers your private parts.
No matter what the part, no one can touch your body without consent. While a cheek is not private, no one should be patting you on the cheek or pulling it if it makes you uncomfortable. Assure them that they can say no without fear.
Tell them who they should talk to if they feel unsafe. Pick out a few adults in your lives, apart from you as parents. It can be an aunt or an uncle or a grandparent you know is trustworthy. It can also be a teacher or another caregiver.
Good touch and bad touch. Let your child know what is acceptable to a point ( unless it becomes bullying – like pulling cheeks to tease) and what is absolutely unacceptable. Having an adult touch your private parts or asking a child to touch their private parts tops the list, but anything that makes a child uncomfortable is ok to express.
No secrets - Discourage secret keeping. Let your child know that you are always on their side and nothing is too hard to talk about.
Empower through safe spaces – Have a circle of safety during which time they can tell you anything without fear of being punished. A broken vase or a lost book may be small confessions, but this will lead them to tell you more and more. This will later ensure that they tell you everything that matters.
Encourage communication – Always keep communication open. Answer questions honestly and to the best of your ability. If you do not know something, let them know that you will find out and answer it. This helps build trust and communication.
Body safety issues are a big part of growing up and can empower children throughout their lives when parents do so proactively. You as parents are keeping them safe. Add this safety to the list as well. Do not wait. Start today! Happy parenting!!