For the second to last post this month on helping children to learn about feelings, emotions, social behaviors and hearts and other body parts I talked to Kerri Isham, a Certified Sexual Health Educator. I asked her: “For parents and caregivers of little ones, what would you advise is the most important learning about bodies for young children?” Her tremendously helpful reply below gave me some things to think about and reminded me how my daughter asked where babies come from at the age of 3. Plus, I didn’t realize that using accurate names for body parts is one way to increase children’s resistance to abuse. She includes suggestions for 2 books to help talk about bodies with young children. Thanks, Kerri, this is really important information for readiness for kindergarten. Is this helpful for you?
Five helpful strategies to keep your child safe:
1. Identify safe adults in your child’s life. Children need trusted adults to be able to ask questions openly without shame. This trust needs to extend beyond their parents/guardians.
2. Reinforce the difference between private and public behaviours/spaces. Behaviours used for self-soothing and anxiety reduction (self-pleasuring) need firm boundaries outside the safety of your home.
3. Start to introduce yes/no feelings. Laying the foundation for intuition recognition lays the groundwork for your child to learn to trust themselves and their own feelings.
4. Use accurate names for all body parts and teach basic reproduction. This is a proven way to increase abuse resistance in children.
5. Emphasize the difference between surprises and secrets. Surprises will always surface whereas secrets will remain underground. There is no need for a preschool aged child to be requested to keep a secret.
Addressing physical, emotional, cognitive and sexual growth from a balanced perspective will support each child to maximize positive health outcomes. Adults, teachers and school counselors have a responsibility to help children understand and accept their developing sexuality.
As parents, it is never too early to start these important conversations. Books such as Belly Buttons are Navels by Mark Schoen and What’s the Big Secret by Marc Brown are both gentle introductions to making healthy sexuality a part of everyday conversations. (Kerri Isham, 2012)