By Angela Dube, LMFT
Kavanaugh, Brock Turner, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein
These days we are hearing a lot sexual harassment, assault, and rape. The #metoo movement has taken off to epic proportions, paving the way for sexual abuse victims to tell their stories and increase public awareness. None of us as parents want our children to endure these tragic events, nor do we want our children to be the perpetrators of violence or discriminatory behavior. Although it may seem like an impossible task, it is our job as parents to do the best we can to teach our children to be safe and respectful.
One of the most important and easiest things you can do with children of all ages is use appropriate anatomical language for body parts. It is common to give our body parts cutesy names in order to reduce the discomfort in talking about them, which results in reducing the stigma associated with the body part. However, teaching children at an early age appropriate names and locations of body parts can help maintain the stigma, teaching the child that these are private parts, and also reduce confusion if reporting an incident is necessary.
Make sure your child knows that what happens to their body is up to them. Teach your children the difference between good and bad touches, who can touch your child, and how others are allowed to touch your child. Likewise, teach your children who and how they can touch others. Private parts are areas that would be covered by a bathing suit. Let your children know that no one is allowed to touch private areas without their consent, and that they cannot touch anyone else’s private areas. Teach them that any touch that makes them uncomfortable is not okay. Model this for your children. Kindly and firmly set limits when someone infringes upon your personal comfort level and let others know when you do not like what they are doing. Ask permission before washing your children, helping with clothing, etc. Listen to your children when they say "no!" and respect their boundary. Don't continue to tickle your child when they say stop, and ask for consent before starting in the first place. Don’t force your children to give people hugs and kisses, instead maybe encourage a high five if some sort of greeting is required. All of these will teach your children that they are in charge of their bodies, it is okay to set limits, and others are in charge of their bodies, too.
Trust your children. Build a relationship with them that they feel comfortable talking to you about difficult conversations. Model for them that you are able to have difficult conversations. Listen to the little things and take them seriously so they know you will listen when something big comes up. If your child reports something suspicious, believe them, support them, and follow the appropriate next steps to address the situation, with their consent of course.
This topic can seem daunting, but as a parent you do have power in teaching your children invaluable skills that will last a lifetime.