Whenever someone says “We’re having The Talk” people think of the awkward conversation that every parent has with their teen about safe sex. However, there is another “Talk” that needs to happen. The Talk we are looking at today is for younger children and toddlers.
Your initial reaction may be that children of that age are too young to have the Talk, but this talk looks different. It is not about sex; it is about body safety and we should begin discussing it at a very young age.
Ok, but what is Body Safety?
Body Safety is not the same as the Stranger Danger talk that we got when we were younger. It’s more than that. Talking with our young children about their body parts, boundaries, and their ability to say no if they feel uncomfortable is Body Safety. We are teaching them about how to keep their bodies safe. This is a talk that lets children know that they are in charge of their body and space, and that they have the power to tell someone “No I don’t want a hug, kiss” or “To be touched” no matter who it is. And yes, sometimes family members may get mad because your child doesn’t want a kiss but would rather get a high five, and that’s ok.
Why is having this talk important?
1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. The reality is that it is normally by a person that they know. Ninety-eight percent of children who experience sexual abuse KNEW the person who did it.
Having the Body Safety Talk early and often helps keep our children healthy and safe. Body safety knowledge empowers them to use their voice if they feel uncomfortable, no matter who the other person is. It teaches them that they have the ability and the right to feel safe.
How do we have the talk?
1. Use Actual Names for Body Parts
When you teach your children their body parts like head, shoulders, knees and toes you use their actual names. It is important to do the same when it comes to their private parts or any part that is covered by a bathing suit. It is best to avoid using pet names for any body part.
2. Secrets Vs. Surprises
Tell the difference between secrets and surprises. Explain that we do not keep secrets so we can keep everyone safe. If someone asks them to keep a secret, especially if someone touches or shows their private parts, tell a trusted adult. Instead, we have surprises. Surprises can be a gift that we got someone or a surprise party that we are having. The best thing about a surprise is that everyone finds out about it at the end.
3: Safe Vs. Unsafe Touch
Talk with your child and give examples about what safe or unsafe touch can look like. Safe touch could be hugs or high fives or maybe snuggles. Unsafe touch is when someone touches or makes them touch their private parts. If this ever happens, tell a trusted adult and keep telling until someone listens.
Let your child know that if they feel something is wrong or if they do not want to be touched it’s ok to say no. No matter who it is. THEY are the boss of THEIR OWN body!
The thing about feelings is we don’t know what they are until someone teaches us. Talk about happy, sad, mad and all the other feelings. Discuss what they can feel like and how they know when they or other are feeling a feeling. This can be done when reading a book or watching tv, or when you are talking about each other’s day.
It is important to talk about feelings because we need to know when our body is telling us that we are uncomfortable. Our heart can start beating really fast, our belly can start to have butterflies, or our palms can get sweaty.
Tell your child that If anything or anyone is making them feel uncomfortable, tell them “No I don’t like that” and tell a trusted adult.
5: Trusted Adults
Make a list of adults who we can trust. This list will be any person that your child can go to if someone attempts to touch or touches them inappropriately.
6: Be Specific
All the things that come with talking about body safety are very important. It is crucial to make sure that you child knows exactly what you are talking about and what to do if needed.
Most importantly– take a deep breath. Caregivers sometimes have a difficult time having this conversation with their toddler or young child. It is ok. You are the expert on your children and you will do great! The most important thing is to continue to have “The Talk” continuously to make sure that your children know exactly what to do and that they are the Ruler of Their Body!
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