We've been winding down our summer here, three birthday parties under the belt and one more holiday weekend to go. Since it's the end of the season I've been looking at swimwear for my kiddos (because who doesn't need to save money next year by buying close outs this year, right?), and it always make me think of the first time I heard someone talk about "body safety rules".
Body Safety Rules are a set of concepts or guidelines that everyone should know, and that can be taught to children at a very young age, as long as we keep it simple. Body Safety Rules help children to establish and maintain personal boundaries, and can help them respond to anyone who might be looking to break any of these rules.
So back to the swimsuits. The first body safety rule is to teach children (or anyone for that matter) which parts of the body are private. "Private parts" are generally covered by a swimsuit, even if it's just a bikini for females and trunks for a boy. The breasts, buttocks and genitals are covered by swimwear. So this is an easy way for any of our little water babies to start to remember which parts are private and why we cover them up when we're outside in a pool or at the beach (as opposed to when we're at home in the privacy of the bathtub). We cover them up because they are our private parts, not for other people to see or touch without appropriate permission.
We can then start moving the conversation to some of the other important body safety rules. Another concept that goes seamlessly with the swimming attire is the anatomically correct name for our body parts. While all the little idiosyncratic ways that children learn to talk and label things are precious (my son still calls his boxes of apple juice "apple boxes") they can cause confusion if a child ever needs to communicate to a trusted adult that someone is making them uncomfortable by asking to touch or see one of the private parts. So help the kiddos learn the simple labels so they can effectively communicate with us (which comes in handy for medical issues as well). For example, when my son sits on the potty I always remind him to make sure his penis is pointed down.
We can help them start to label their body parts during the donning and shedding of the swim wear. And this leads right into a conversation about why we cover up these parts in public. Little ones can start to understand that these areas are "private" parts of their body, parts that it's not okay for other people to touch or see (outside of parents/caregivers doing routine hygiene like diaper changes, baths, dressing, etc.). If someone like a doctor or new babysitter needs to have access to these parts, permission is needed. Our little ones can understand that they can say "no", and that they can tell us (or other trusted adults) if someone is trying to touch or see the parts that are covered by the bathing suits.
And a final note on telling us about anyone making them uncomfortable; our children need to know that it's never okay for someone to ask them to keep a secret about these parts of the body. Our private parts are, well, private, but that doesn't mean they are "secret". We can talk openly about them, everyone has them after all! So if anyone ever asks them to "not tell", or makes them feel uncomfortable talking about these areas, they need to tell us.
Swimsuit season is one of my favorite times of the year, for many reasons, and one of them is the easy and natural way these conversations can take place. Not to mention the fact that multiple days in the pool means lots of opportunities for the oh so important repetition of these ideas.
If you are looking for other ways to start or continue these conversations with your kids (or again, anyone that may need this information), feel free to comment on my blog or please log in to any of our chatrooms and practice with our trained facilitators and fellow survivors!
Have a great end of the summer everyone!