A few months ago my daughter’s school sent an e-mail around stating that the students would be participating in an age appropriate “No Secrets Program” presentation and that we, as the parents, had the option of opting out of if we didn’t feel comfortable with the topic. The presentation had three main objectives:
1.) Create awareness and encourage children to think about the kinds of touch they get and their feelings about touch
2.) Discuss the difference between touch that is appropriate and safe and touch that is not, and
3.) Emphasize that if you are touched in a way that makes you uncomfortable, it is not your fault and you should tell an adult that you trust.
When I got the email my first thought was “wow, are we really at this point in life? She’s only 4!" My second thought was “but this is great that the school is focusing on this and educating the students on this topic early on.”
Lucky for me, baby girl and I have had the conversation before so it wouldn't be completely foreign to her. “Sweetie no one is to touch your private.” She nonchalantly shrugs it off with an “ok”. I typically follow up with reminding her that, the list includes family members, teachers, and friends as well. I’ve explained to her that there is a list (a VERY short list) of people who can touch that area for bathing and effectively wiping purposes ONLY. (Remember she is only 4, and sometimes she needs a little assistance in the wiping area lol). She knows that even mommy will only touch that area to thoroughly clean, because truth be told I would rather not go near that thang either. LOL
Honestly though, as a mother I want to ensure she knows that touching her private is inappropriate and that she should tell mommy and/or daddy if someone was to do that to her, even if that means someone we know. Kids are curious and while I’m trying to protect her from adult predators, there is a possibility that children her age or older could be the very ones that I need to protect her against as well. I’m not with her at school or at after school care. And while I’m sure the teachers are doing their best at keeping an eye on the kids, things can and do slip through the cracks.
We don’t try to scare her or anything but reinforce the importance of keeping our private parts private. That means crossing our legs when we have on a skirt, wearing shorts under our dresses and closing the door when we go to the potty. She may not understand the severity of the topic at this age, but at least she knows if anyone goes near that area, something is not right and she is to immediately inform us. Every so often, I’ll randomly ask, “Baby, has anyone touched your private or tried to touch your private?” “No mommy”. Whew work here done! Mommie and Daddie don’t have to go to jail! Everyone lives, everyone is happy! LOL In all seriousness though, Mommies and Daddies, it’s an uncomfortable discussion, but it’s one that needs to be had! Check out a few tips on how to have the conversation with your little one!
1.) Talk about it early! 325,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of commercial child exploitation each year. Children are more intelligent than you think! As you begin to introduce your child to his and her body parts, let them know that only Mommie and/or Daddy can touch that area. While I don't encourage euphemisms such as "cootie bug" or "ding dong", I personally don't see anything wrong with using "private part" or "private area" as opposed to their biological names (vagina and penis). It’s up to the parents on how they describe those areas but I would stay away from the cutesy names. Let them know that those parts are to remain covered and no one should ever ask to see or touch those private areas.
2.) Inform your child(ren) that its ok to speak up! 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members. Daddy and I try to make sure our daughter knows that if ANYONE makes her feel uncomfortable she should come and tell us (and that includes family and our friends). Empower them to say NO! If something doesn't feel right, let them know they have the right to say so!
We also emphasize that if the unGodly were to occur, that SHE is not the one at fault and that she would not be the one in trouble. I think kids are don't speak up about abuse because they may be afraid; afraid of getting in trouble or getting the other person in trouble. They may even feel embarrassed and/or afraid to even relive or speak about the incident.
3.) Ask Questions. Though you may educate your child on what is appropriate and inappropriate, it doesn't hurt to check in occasionally. Has anyone hurt you or tried to hurt you? Does [insert family or friend name/title] make you feel uncomfortable by touching or trying to touch your [insert preferred anatomic name]? Keep an open line of communication but keep it light. Bring the questions up around potty or bath time and remind them of what to do and say if ever a situation like this were to come up. Help them to understand that Mommie/Daddy have their backs and just want to protect them from certain things.
Yes it’s an uncomfortable topic, but again it’s up to us to keep our little people informed and safe!
What have you taught your kids about “safe touch”? How do you ensure the lines of communications remain open so that they feel comfortable telling you if something unforeseen happened? Have you also informed your kids that they too should not touch other people’s private areas?