Body safety rules your child should know
Your child should be in tandem with body safety rules; you cannot always protect your children.
In Nigeria, one in four girls and one in 10 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday, and only two per cent of girls and four of boys receive any help, hence it is key to equip your child with body safety rules.
While this topic feels uncomfortable for most parents to initiate, if you choose to ignore it, you will be doing yourself and your child a huge disservice.
Here are body safety rules you should include in your conversations with your child:
The first step is teaching your child the proper names for body parts at the same time you teach him all body parts. Let him/her know that everything that goes under underwear and a bathing suit is “private parts”. This teaches a child how to communicate using the proper names if someone touches them inappropriately.
Children should be taught what body parts are private and that if someone (a predator and unsafe person, which can be a child, adult, family member, etc.) touches their private parts; they need to tell a trusted adult straightaway.
From age 2.5 to three, as your child begins to developmentally comprehend and retain more, you can begin to have conversations about safe and unsafe touching. Unsafe touch doesn’t have to strictly be with regard to private parts, although this is the biggest component of body safety.
When you relate unsafe touch to a toddler, you can give examples such as pushing, hitting or kicking, as well as not respecting the person when they ask another to stop an action such as tickling. Safe touch maybe when your child snuggles with you, holds your hand or gives you a hug.
When a child asks for an action to stop, the person is supposed to respect him/her and listen because the child decides what feels safe and unsafe.
When you have discussions with your child, it’s important to help him/her discuss their feelings. What does it feel like to be happy, sad, angry, scared? Children who are taught to verbalise their feelings are more in tune with the messages their body tells them.
Teach your child to know that secrets are not allowed, as most perpetrators will ask children to keep secrets of the abuse, often in a casual and friendly way. Hence, creating a safe word for your family can make it easier for a child to tell, without divulging all the details if they are afraid or uncomfortable, at first.
There should also be no pictures of private parts. This is one of the most missed parts of teaching body safety and nowadays with vast technology, it’s extremely important to teach. There is an entire online community that will take naked pictures of children and share them with a large network online. Teach your child that no one should ever take pictures of his private parts or be shown pictures of other people’s private parts.
When a child is in an unsafe situation and needs to get away from another child, peer or adult who makes him/her feel unsafe or has asked him/her to do something unsafe, teach him/her it’s okay to excuse himself/herself to leave or use the bathroom. The point is that the child needs to get out of the situation quickly and if he/she needs to lie to leave the room, this is okay in this circumstance.
Constantly restate to your child that he/she is the boss of his own body. A child can stop the actions of an unsafe peer or adult who is asking to touch or have their private parts touched by shouting, “No! or “Stop!” and pushing the person away. Then, go tell an adult straight away.
Most importantly, keeping an open line of communication in your parenting conversations can make all the difference for your child. Continually buttress the point that you will always believe your child and he/she can tell you anything and never get into trouble no matter the outcome.