Have the conversation
It is important to note that all children are vulnerable to sexual abuse because of their innocence and total trust and dependence upon adults. We teach our children their ABC’s and how to count 1, 2, and 3. We teach them their left hand and their right. We emphasize the importance of being polite. We teach them road safety. We teach them how to groom themselves. We teach them how to pray. We teach them stranger danger, but we fail to have that very important and thorough conversation about Body Safety. Yes some of us may ‘broach’ the topic when we are bathing or dressing our children by saying, “Do not let anyone touch your private parts” or “If anyone touches your private part please tell me.” We do this and we think that our job is done when this is not the case.
As parents we have to be more thorough. We need to sit and have honest, frank and open conversations with our children. We have to take the time to explain “good touch” and “bad touch.” We have to emphasize the importance of respecting or keeping private parts private. Additionally, when we say, “Don’t let anyone touch your private part.” We need to also state the importance of our children not touching anyone’s private parts as well. We have to tell our children that there are people who may try to hurt them or do bad things to them. We have to explain or describe what these bad things are, because they don’t know.
A friend who works with children shared the following story with me. I share in that hope that you may get a clearer understanding of what I mean when I say that children don’t know. She told me of a counselling session that she had with a four year old boy and his mother. The little boy had been sexually violated by his teenage male cousin. When the child was interviewed, the mother cringed and asked to stop the session. She felt that my friend was ‘going too far.’ The mother said that her child was an innocent little boy who he didn’t know about those ‘bad and nasty’ things. She did not want her child corrupted by hearing or being asked about ‘bad or nasty’ things.
Children are innocent. They are ignorant to these ‘bad and nasty’ things. Abusers are clever. They are master manipulators. They are counting on the child’s ignorance so that they can perpetrate their acts. The child’s ignorance makes it easy for the abuser to groom and further victimize children. As a parent it is your job to protect your children. The best way to do that is to thoroughly educate them on the importance of body safety so have the conversation.
Let me clarify so that I am not misunderstood. I am not saying to have explicit conversations with your child or children. I am not asking you to corrupt your children. As a parent you need to cover all of your bases. A child doesn’t only have one or two private parts. He or she should be taught this. This is a common error many parents make because it is common practice to classify or describe private parts as the vagina or penis. In our discussions we fail to include the anus or mouth or even a child’s personal space. This is what the parent that I mentioned didn’t want discussed. The truth is that abusers may violate children in varied ways.
In your discussions with your child or children you need to give scenarios. In your discussions, ask your child to list his or her private parts. Make sure he or she includes the mouth and anus. You may then go on to ask what the private parts are used for and have the child list the bodily functions such eating, urination or defecation. Then you may ask questions such as, “Do you put private parts in your ears, eyes, nose or mouth?” The answer to all of these questions is no. Then you may go on to say. Your eyes are for seeing. Your nose is for smelling. Your mouth is for eating food from your plates. My son likes to add a thing like his mouth is for coughing or his nose is for sneezing. You may also ask, “Should you play with your private parts or should you let others play with your private parts.” This is just an idea of how the conversation can go. Have the conversation. I have provided a list of books that should be quite useful in helping you navigate your way through the conversation. Best of luck with the conversation!
Quotes on Protecting Your Children
“I think that we have a moral obligation to our children that can be easily summarized: number one is to protect them from harm.” Unknown
“We owe our children the most vulnerable citizens in our society a life free of violence and fear.” Nelson Mandela
“Children are human beings to which respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of the future.” Maria Montessori
Recommended Reading for Children
Recommended Reading for the Parent