10 Tips for Teaching Body Safety

We teach our children about stranger danger, stop drop and roll, and fire safety; but do we teach our kids about keeping their bodies safe?

Think back to your childhood--did you have the aunt who plopped a slimy kiss on your cheek or an uncle who gave a rib-cracking hug? Were you told it was rude to say no, so you bore the awfulness until you could escape and go play with your cousins? I know I did. We hated this experience, so why are we teaching our children they must do the same? We don't have to!

Unfortunately, statistics in Utah report that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before turning 18. Those are dire numbers; but that doesn't mean that we are powerless in preventing and stopping abuse that could occur. Teaching children about body safety can help educate and prepare children if they encounter situations that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

1. Their body is theirs

We should teach our children that they have the right and power to say no to touch from adults or other children. Teaching kids that they have power over their own bodies helps them understand that if something uncomfortable or unsafe happens they can run and tell a trusted adult. If a child feels uncomfortable with physical affection, or simply isn't in the mood for a tickle fight - they can offer alternatives such as high-fives, air-fives, fistbumps, elbow-bumps, waving, and blowing kisses.

2. Know proper terminology for their bodies

It is important for them to know what their body parts are and what great things they can do. The urinary and reproductive systems of their body can be discussed with the same comfortability as you would an elbow or shoulder. Having age-appropriate and open discussions about their bodies helps your child feel comfortable to come to you if something uncomfortable or unsafe happens. A great way of explaining private areas and their importance is this is that "anything that covers the bathing suit is just for you and no one else can touch you there."

NOTE: The two caveats for this rule are if a trusted adult is helping them to use the restroom or if they are at a doctor's visit and a parent is present in the room.

3. Safe touches and unsafe touches

Safe touches are anything from a warm hug to an awesome high five. These touches leave us feeling better and happier. Brainstorm some examples of safe touch with your child. In contrast, unsafe touches can be anything from hitting a sibling to touching someone's private parts. Explain to your child, how unsafe touches can make us feel ashamed or guilty inside.

A good way of explaining this to little kids is an "uh-oh" or icky feeling. Talk to them about what their body feels when they get an "uh-oh" feeling. (It could be that their tummy feels sick, or they aren't hungry, they feel sad and don't want to play, etc.) Explain that this is their body's way of telling them that something is wrong. When they feel that "uh-oh" feeling they should tell a trusted adult.

NOTE: Refrain from using "good" and "bad" touches as sometimes unsafe touches can create a pleasurable or "good" feeling, which can be very confusing for children.

4. Be Assertive and Say "No" to Unwanted Touch

Practice being assertive with your child by talking through situations where the child should say phrases such as:

"Stop I don't like that!"

"No means NO!"

"I'm the boss of my body."

5. Make a list of "Safe Adults"

Another startling statistic is that 90% of children are abused by someone they know and trust. While we don't want to live in fear of those we love, we also should be informed and wise about who is interacting with our children. Make a list with your child about 3-5 people they trust to talk to if an uncomfortable or unsafe touch happens. Reassure your child that all of these adults will believe them if they tell and that you will believe them if they tell you something has happened.

6. Private and public places

You can help your child understand that there are public places where everyone should gather together and there are private places where only one person should be at a time. Kitchens and family rooms can be fun areas for families and friends to gather together to eat food and play games. Explain that on the other hand, bathrooms in homes are private places where there should only be one person at a time. The only exception would be if a parent had to help a child use the restroom. You can also use this rule for bedrooms.

7. Learning "Tricks" that Unsafe People Use

Oftentimes adults or other children can tell lies about what could happen if a child tells about an uncomfortable or unsafe touch. They will use bribery, fear, and intimidation as tactics in order to keep the child from telling an adult. Help your child understand different ways that the adult or child can use "tricks" to try to scare kids into doing what they want. Trying roleplaying situations where people use tricks to get them to not tell - encourage them to use responses that are assertive. Reassure your child, that if they tell a trusted adult about an unsafe touch they will be safe and okay - no matter what the unsafe person says.

8. Keep a line of communication open with your child

It is vital to remind your child that they can always come and talk to you about anything. Ask questions and engage in conversation about body safety so your child feels more comfortable coming to you if something happens. If you feel comfortable, ask questions and talk about safe and unsafe touches on a regular basis so your child is reminded of how they can be assertive and have power over their own body.

9. Use books to help make the conversation more fun and comfortable

It can be hard to figure out how to broach these subjects with your child - it can be awkward and uncomfortable. Not only is it good to review what you would like to say beforehand, but you can try using videos, books or other tools to help you start that conversation. Using these mediums can help your child engage with the characters in the story and better relate to the conversation. It also makes it less scary and more fun for your child to learn about!

10. Reinforce your unconditional love for your child and their unconditional worth

Make sure your child knows that no matter if something happens - they are always good and worthy. Let them know that they can always come talk to you and that you won't punish them if something happens. Make sure they know that you will always love them and support them. Enforcing this knowledge will help them manage conflicting and confusing emotions if anything arises.

If you are interested in learning more about teaching your child body safety, refer to these websites below that have further information and ideas on how to begin that discussion. Leave your thoughts, comments or questions on body safety below!



Websites:

Kids First:

https://www.kidsfirstinc.org/how-to-talk-to-young-children-about-body-safety/

Defend Innocence:

https://defendinnocence.org/

Prevent Child Abuse Utah:

https://pcautah.org/

Youtube Videos:

Body Safety for Adults: Empower your child with body safety knowledge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qW5qZYldCUo

Protect yourself Rules - Grades K-3 - All Lessons

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8R2g5QrDAw

Some Secrets Should Never be Kept read by Debra Byrne

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YjJ1MreZqs

Books:

Miles is the Boss of His Body -Samantha Kurtzman-Counter

My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes - Dagmar Geisler

My Body Is Special and Belongs to Me! - Sally Berenzweig

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Saturday, 18 September 2021

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