Guest Post by Katy Fleming, MA, LPC, BSN, RN
In parenthood, we try to protect our children in any way possible. From buying our little ones their first helmet to reviewing how to “stop, drop, and roll,” safety is reinforced in many ways.
Educate your child on body safety and the importance of respectful boundaries to prevent sexual abuse, assault, or unsafe situations.
Learn how to approach this difficult subject and teach healthy boundaries with these key body safety rules for your children.
5 Body Safety Rules to Keep Your Children Safe
In general, kids respond well to clearly defined rules. When it comes to body boundaries, it may not always feel clear-cut.
Start an open dialogue to educate your little ones on keeping their bodies safe. Check out these rules and tips to open this important conversation.
1. Teach appropriate terms
It’s easy to get stuck in baby talk when you’re around little ones. Before assigning cute names to your little one’s body parts, consider the importance of learning proper names for our bodies.
Creating nicknames for genitals and other private body parts may cause your child to feel ashamed or scared to discuss their bodies. This creates a false impression that their bodies are bad.
Another vital reason to correctly name body parts is so your child can inform you if they are touched inappropriately.
When your kiddo is beginning to speak, teach the correct anatomical names such as vagina, breasts, and penis.
2. Discuss safe and unsafe touches
Create a clear distinction between acceptable and unacceptable touching from others.
For example, a parent or caregiver may assist with toileting or bathing. Pediatricians and other doctors may touch their abdomen and private areas during an exam.
Review which parts of their bodies are appropriate for others to look at and touch. Clearly define the “swimsuit area” or private parts that people should not touch or look at including other family members.
Ensure that your child fully understands the terms that you’re using such as swimsuit area or privates.
3. Hugs and kisses are optional
It’s expected for family and other loved ones to express their love to your kids. However, children aren’t always comfortable with the big bear hugs to their great-uncle or a kiss from their cousin.
Never force affection from family or friends. Rehearse how to respectfully say no to unwanted hugs and kisses. Instead, your child can offer a fist-bump or high-five.
It may help to review these boundaries with your extended family before holidays and other family functions.
4. Tell a grown-up
Empower your little ones to ask for help when in danger. Reassure your child that they can always come to you and you’ll not only listen but will believe them.
Talk about saying no when someone is touching or looking at their bodies inappropriately. Encourage your child to run away if that person is continuing to not respect their boundaries.
It’s confusing when a loved one or trusted adult makes a child uncomfortable.
Reinforce the importance of getting help and talking about inappropriate touching.
Continue to engage in open conversation about body safety. Remind your child that they won’t get in trouble for saying no or sharing what happened.
5. Trust Your Gut
We often get a gut feeling before something bad happens. Talk with your little one about the early indications that something is wrong.
Teach your child to identify how they feel in a situation and to recognize their physical signs of distress.
For example, they may feel butterflies in their stomach with sweaty palms when feeling uncomfortable. Their heart may beat faster when an inappropriate situation arises.
Encourage regularly expressing these feelings to you and other trusted adults.
Want to learn more parenting tips? You’ll love these:
- Who Should Get the New RSV Vaccine?
- What to Do Immediately When Your Child is in Respiratory Distress
- 10 Activities to Do Outdoors When the Weather Gets Chilly
- The Importance of Air Quality Around Newborns
- 6 Unexpected Signs that Could Be Postpartum Depression
Continue to discuss healthy boundaries with your children and develop open communication. These conversations should start at a young age to reinforce the importance of respecting our bodies.
If you have questions or concerns about body awareness and the safety of your children, talk to your pediatrician.
As a licensed counselor and registered nurse, Katy approaches freelance writing with years of experience and a unique perspective. Alongside her partner, Katy loves to travel the world and embrace other cultures from volcanoes in Iceland to villages in India.
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