February 6, 2013 by Daisy Rose
Parents often think they have a lot of control over their child, but ultimately the child has the final word – just ask anyone who’s gotten into a power struggle with a toddler. We set limits on what they can eat, when they should sleep, and in so many other aspects of their life. Our goal is to provide a safe environment and the proper resources for them to be happy and healthy little people. However, even with all the direction we provide them, they still ultimately have the freedom to choose whether they are going to close their eyes to welcome sleep or whether they will eat the spinach on their dinner plate.
As frustrating as it can be at times, by honoring these choices we provide our kids with the opportunity to learn how to listen and respect their own bodies. This builds a foundation where they have the tools they need to take care of themselves when a parent is not around- such as when they are at school or staying at a friend’s house. It’s incredibly important to honor a child’s intuition and boundaries, especially when it comes to protecting them against sexual molestation, which happens to occur with one in four girls and one in eight boys before the age of 18. Molestation most likely occurs from someone within their inner circle –including family, teachers, group leaders, and other children as opposed to a stranger or a registered sex-offender.
A few years ago, a friend shared with me that a family member was having inappropriate and private conversations with her five year-old about their genitals. Fortunately for this family, the dialogue was discovered before it went past the talking part. Her experience has stayed with me over the years and has become increasingly important as my own daughter grows and learns about her body.
My goal is to teach my daughter how to respect herself and to honor her feelings around both friends and strangers. I want her to understand it’s her body and know what’s okay and what’s not in regards to other people touching or looking at her. Another friend, who’s certified through the Episcopal Church on how to keep kids safe, gave me some helpful tips on how to prepare your kids to honor their instincts and to make them aware of what is comfortable and the tools for how to handle when it isn’t.
1. Wave, shake hands, or smile. There are various degrees of touching that each person is comfortable with when greeting someone else. Teach your child that it’s ok if they don’t want to be touched and that it isn’t rude to refuse someone’s hug. Work with your child to see what ways they might be comfortable when saying hello or goodbye to acquaintances or family, such as using a smile or a handshake.
2. No means no. Give your child the words they need to stop an uncomfortable situation. Provide them assurance that it is always ok to get away or stay away from any person that makes them feel uncomfortable, and that they can tell an adult they trust to protect them. This is a great opportunity to teach your child what intuition feels like, why it’s there for a reason and how it can be a helpful tool.
3. Overall, trust your gut and that of your child’s. There are those people that we just don’t feel right about. There’s an instinctual reason for that. There is no harm in avoiding that person, but there could be harm in talking yourself out of it.
4. Ask me when you’re confused. Keep an open dialogue with your child so that they feel safe talking to you anytime they might feel confused about a situation or their feelings. Also, if you notice anything different about your child, take the time to explore what you notice with them to find out what might be going on. Remember that false accusations are extremely rare, and it’s reassuring that your child know you will always love them no matter what.
5. Be open. My friend was quick to remind me although you may feel a bit squeamish, it’s important to be sexually open with your kids when teaching them about their bodies and about the birds and the bees. As hard as it is to imagine, at some point (hopefully in their adult life) they are going to be in a sexual relationship, and if you build an open foundation it will be easier to talk about tough topics like sexually transmitted diseases and birth control. Starting to talk about difficult topics early will make all the difference for her to make safe and healthy choices and to understand and identify what isn’t safe and healthy.
By Stephanie Vuolo who writes a nutrition-focused blog called Primarily Paleo.