Introducing body safety and protective behaviours to our young children can be daunting. Most parents feel ill-equipped; unsure of the information to impart and worried that they might frighten or alarm their child. However, the truth remains that as parents we have a responsibility to empower and protect our children with the knowledge that their body is private and that they have a right to protect their privacy.
Over the coming months, I will be guiding you through this process – providing you with the information you need and sharing my insights, as a mother, author and child protection educator.
The first important step on this journey, is to understand the reality of childhood sexual abuse statistics. You can learn more about them in last month’s blog “The Shocking Reality of Childhood Sexual Abuse” – however the key points to recognise are that:
- Your child is most at risk of abuse by someone they know and that in about half of these cases the perpetrator will be a family member; and
- Somewhere between 30 to 60% of abuse will be perpetrated by other children or young people.
The next step is to identify the information that you need to impart to your child. It is important that you don’t just speak in general terms. Instead provide children with specific examples of inappropriate behaviours and situations that a predator might use, during the grooming process. I recommend that you cover the following points:
- Using correct anatomical terms, teach your child what areas of their body are private.
- Teach your child that nobody can look, touch or feel their private parts, either through their clothes or direct touch.
- Reinforce to your child they are also not allowed to look, touch or feel anyone else’s private parts.
- Teach children that it is wrong for anyone to take a photograph of their private parts or show them any images of private parts on any sort of device.
- Teach children that it doesn’t matter if someone tells them that it’s a game, rewards them, or gives them treats, presents or gifts – it is still not ok.
- Highlight that these rules apply no matter the person’s age, gender, status in the community, or their relationship to the child i.e. friend, family or stranger.
- Empower them with the knowledge that they can say ‘no’ at any point that someone’s touch doesn’t feel right – including kissing, stroking, cuddling, snuggling or tickling.
- Identify that abusive behaviour is never a secret, even if someone threatens them, or if they think they are to blame;
- Remind children that no matter what, abusive behaviour is never their fault and that they won’t be in trouble.
If all this information seems a little overwhelming, please feel free to view a complete preview of ‘Only For Me’, which illustrates how these concepts can be introduced in a gentle and engaging manner. You can also download a free copy of Bravehearts new Personal Safety Parents Guide.
Next month I will continue with this topic and provide you with further information about how you can develop your child’s problem solving to skills to recognise and respond to inappropriate behaviour and situations.
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