From a young age, parents teach their children how to cross the road safely and not to talk to strangers, leaving talk about body safety until their later years. It makes some parents feel uncomfortable, or in some cases, they believe it will never happen to their child.
But here’s the thing, according to a recent study by the Centre for Disease Control and Preventions (CDCP), 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse in their childhood. Just let that sink in for a minute because as a mother of four girls, I feel physically ill just thinking about it.
Did you know 91% of child sexual abuse cases is perpetrated by someone the child or child’s family knows? Teaching your child “stranger danger” is NOT the best way to keep them safe from sexual predators. Here are some things to consider when talking to your child about body safety:
Talk about safe and unsafe
When talking about body safety, you must use the appropriate wording. Instead of using words like “good” and “bad” touching, use “safe” and “unsafe”. They should know that nobody should touch them in the areas their swimming suit covers and they should never feel another person in these areas either. A child’s mouth should also be known as a “private area”.
Talk to your child about keeping secrets, both good and bad. For example, if someone tells you nana is having a surprise 60th and not to tell her, explain to them how that is a good secret. But if someone touches them in an inappropriate area, that is a bad secret, and a trusted adult should be informed as soon as possible.
Create a safe house
If something happens to your child, they may feel embarrassed or fear getting in trouble if they open up to you. Let your child know they can confide in other trusted adults both inside and outside of their home. Talk about who these people are and instruct them not to give up talking until someone helps them.
Keep the conversation open
It’s no use having a chat once and acting like it never happened. How many times do you have to teach a child the safe cross code until they finally get it? Repetition is the key. Have open conversations about body safety in your home by revisiting the topic every couple of months.
Use proper terms
Let’s get this straight once and for all. Penis and vagina are not weird or funny words. We all have them. Use the correct names for private parts and STOP using pet names to describe the genitals. This way if they have been touched inappropriately, they will be able to clearly state where, and whoever they are confiding in will fully understand them.
Empower your child
And finally, teach your child their body is theirs. Kids should know they are the boss of their body from a young age, and they don’t have to be touched, kissed or hugged by anyone if they are not comfortable.