Every day as I scroll through social media, I can’t help but feel heartbroken over some of the news stories I come across. More and more of them have to do with sexual abuse.
I think about my kids, and those I’ll have the privilege of being a mommy to in the future. I can’t imagine the horror of those parents—the ones whose children are headlining my newsfeed because they were victims of sexual abuse.
It’s those very reasons that it needs to be discussed. No parent has control over every single experience of their child, it’s just not reality. But educating our kids about their bodies and who’s allowed to touch them is one way we can keep them safe.
Educate 2 Empower provides this free poster, and many others, to help parents and educators keep kids safe from abuse.
The poster uses simple language that help kids understand how to identify potentially inappropriate or abusive behavior. The first guideline listed is “My body is my body and it belongs to me,” which reminds a child that they have authority over their body, and they can always say “no” to physical affection. Instead of a hug or kiss, they can offer a high five, handshake or blow a kiss to the person they’re interacting with.
It encourages kids to come up with a “safety network”—five people they can always trust if they feel uncomfortable, worried or concerned. The “safety network” is important because the rest of the poster’s guidelines direct kids back to one of the trusted adults within that network.
The next step teaches kids how to identify “early warning signs” that someone may be trying to hurt them. The poster explains that they should always tell someone in their safety network if they experience frightened symptoms, such as sweating, a fast heartbeat or a sick feeling in their stomach.
Kids are reminded that they don’t have to keep secrets that make them feel uncomfortable, and should always tell someone in their safety network if that’s the case. This lesson is important because children are often discouraged from telling fun secrets—like that of an expected new baby, or a surprise party for a family member. But these secrets are different, and it’s important for kids to be able to distinguish between the secrets they’re supposed to keep, and those they need to tell someone about.
In a piece for The Huffington Post, author Jayneen Sanders suggests telling your kids that in your family, there are “happy surprises,” not secrets, and happy surprises are always eventually told. This way, a child understands that it’s wrong when someone tells them to keep a secret that sets off alarm bells.
Of course, the final, and probably the most important, guideline that the poster breaks down is helping kids understand which body parts are private, and to always use proper names when identifying those parts. Anything that is covered by a bathing suit, the poster teaches, are their private parts. It reinforces that no one can touch their private parts and that no one should ask them to touch theirs either, or show them pictures of private parts. Should the unthinkable happen, the poster tells kids to share that with a trusted adult in their safety network.
Discussing body safety rules with our kids can feel like an uncomfortable conversation. I hope you find comfort in knowing that it’s also biblical.
1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.” Our bodies are members of Jesus Christ, and He dwells within them. We are called to glorify God with our bodies. Teaching our kids to understand how precious their bodies are and how to keep them safe is one of the greatest ways we can protect them from becoming victims of sexual abuse.
You can download the poster here.