How early is too early when it comes to teaching our young children about body safety? As it turns out, you can and should teach your children about body safety when they're as young as 3 or 4, in an age-appropriate manner.
And while the teachers at pre-school may be trained to teach their young charges about body safety and awareness through songs, storytelling, and activities , it's also important for parents to continue the conversation at home.
If you're feeling intimidated at the thought of bringing up such a heavy topic with your young child, you're not alone. Just take a deep breath and remember that this is a necessary, continuous conversation to have, to keep your precious little ones safe.
Here are five simple ways to get you started.
1. Teach the proper names of body parts
You can begin by teaching your child to call their body parts by their actual name, including all private parts like the penis, vagina, and buttock. If you feel awkward about it, you can do this naturally during bath time, when you’re casually pointing out other body parts like the shoulders, knees and toes.
This is important because if the unthinkable happens and your child is touched inappropriately, knowing the exact names of the body parts will help them be confident in reporting the deed.
2. Difference between good and bad touch
It’s important for you to help your child know and understand the difference between “good” and “bad” touch. If anyone touches him in a way or does anything to him that makes him feel bad or unsafe, then teach your child to tell the person to stop, leave the abuser, and to tell a trusted adult immediately.
Your child should know that this rule applies to everyone - absolutely no one should touch him in a bad or unsafe way, even if it’s a family member or close friend who does it.
3. No body secrets
Emphasise to your child that they shouldn’t keep any body secrets from mummy or daddy. This is to discourage sexual abusers from getting your child to keep silent by telling them to keep secrets, because some of them turn their abuse into a “secrets” game.
Make it a habit of talking to your child about everything at home, so that they learn to be open to telling you everything from a young age. Instead of secrets, you could tell your child that they can spring “happy surprises”, like birthday parties or exciting news!
4. Help your child name other adults they can turn to
Other than mummy or daddy, help your child to identify three to five other trusted adults they can speak to if they feel unsafe. Oftentime, sexual abusers may warn the child not to tell their own parents, so it will be helpful for your child to know another trusted adult outside of the family who they can turn to for help.
5. Respect body boundaries
Reinforce the message that “your body is your own”, to your child. No one should touch your child or force them to do anything they’re uncomfortable with, even if it’s giving or receiving signs of affection like kisses and hugs from grandparents, relatives or friends. Remind your child that she can say no respectfully and politely, and offer an alternative form of greeting instead like a high five or a wave.