When parents learn that in cases of child sexual abuse, 93 percent of victims knew their abuser, it gets their attention right away. The belief that only strangers are child sexual abusers is a misconception, and actually only occurs in about 7 percent of cases. Knowing this fact and combining it with the reality that you cannot be with your child every minute reminds us that it is crucial to teach our children about sexual abuse, their body parts, and creating safe boundaries.
To help parents and guardians accomplish this, Trees of Hope is excited to announce the publication of our new coloring book that can assist you in teaching your child about his or her body. The Power of P in Me teaches young boys and girls that their space is personal, their body is private, and that they are precious. Use of the coloring book is a creative and fun way for parents and guardians to begin these essential conversations with children, stressing the importance of the three “Ps” – personal, private, and precious.
Start these conversations today by using “The Power of P”, which can be found here. In addition, consider the following when teaching children and toddlers about their body:
Don’t Be Afraid to Discuss Body Parts – The more aware a child is of his or her body parts, the more likely and better equipped they are to explain if something inappropriate has happened to their body. Be sure to use proper names for each body part; this is crucial, especially if down the road a child has to disclose an instance of abuse.
Stress that Body Parts are Private – Children need to be told that their body parts are private, and that they are called “private parts” because they are not for others to see. Of course, you will want to teach your child about exceptions such as mommy and daddy, or a physician or medical personnel as long as a parent or guardian is in the room at all times.
Share that Body Secrets are Not OK – This goes in line with body parts being private; children should understand that body secrets are never okay. This means if someone touches them or looks at them naked, and shares that it must be kept secret, or if a threat is made, the child should tell a parent or guardian immediately. Abusers use this tactic often, and will typically make comments to a child such as, “Remember, this is our secret – don’t say anything or you will get into trouble,” or “If you tell anyone about this, I won’t be able to play with you anymore/buy you toys/etc.”
Teach Your Child About Personal Space – Learning boundaries is a key component to helping your child keep him or herself safe. Teach your child about their own personal space, how no one should touch their body/body parts, and that they shouldn’t be asked to touch anyone else’s private parts. Keep in mind that many sexual abuse cases start with the abuser asking a child to touch him/her or someone else.
Teach Children How to Say No in Uncomfortable Situations – For some children, saying “no” to adults or older peers is uncomfortable. Whether someone hugs and kisses a child, shows other unwanted attention, or is touching his/her body parts, teach your child that it is their right to say “No” when these situations occur.
Remind Your Child That They Can Safely Tell You Anything – In all conversations regarding sexuality, body parts, and sexual abuse, remind your child how precious they are and that they will never get in trouble if they tell you that someone did something inappropriate to their body. Be true to your word and do not act out in anger if in fact a child does come to you with an account of abuse.
Want to learn additional ways to speak to your child about his or her body, and how to stay safe from child sexual abusers? Visit www.TreesofHope.org and download our yearly magazine or attend one of our Sexual Abuse Prevention workshops. And don’t forget to download your copy of our new The Power of P in Me coloring book!