Spring is here and with the change of seasons, comes different needs of the child. One area we pay close attention to every spring is body safety.
Curiosity about the body and gender differences are all extremely developmentally-normal topics for children. Children ages 3-12 regularly ask questions and show interest in knowing more. Most of what we teach at The Montessori School is about consent – asking before hugging or touching, protecting each person’s privacy, and respect for oneself and others. While we do teach health education to our elementary children, we count on parents to have body safety conversations at home as well.
Here’s how you can support your child:
Teach the “Five Body Safety Rules”:
Having this print-out somewhere in your house is a great reminder to your family and anyone who comes into your home. Mine is on our refrigerator.
Be ready for conversations at home and appreciate when questions come your way!
Children of all ages are going to ask questions about body parts, sex, and where babies come from. Answer their questions in an honest but developmentally appropriate way. Always use correct body part terminology so there is no stigma around private parts. If your preschooler asks where babies come from, don’t automatically assume that you’re going to have to teach them about sex. Children will absorb the information that they can handle. The series of questions will stop when the child is satisfied and has “enough” information.
When your child asks you questions, that’s a great sign! It means that you have created a healthy environment for curiosity where they won’t be judged or punished for asking questions. As a parent, you want to create an open line of communication. Remember, you want your child coming to YOU with their questions. If they don’t feel safe to do so, those questions won’t go away; they will ask a peer who may not provide accurate or appropriate answers. You have the control!
Talk to your children about private parts.
The best way to define private parts is to describe them as parts that are covered by a bathing suit (different based on gender or personal beliefs). The mouth is often added as a private part. No one should put anything in your mouth or ask you to put anything in their mouth.
Go over the Body Safety Rules regularly.
As a parent of a toddler, preschooler, and pre-teen, we find times to talk about these rules regularly. The doctor’s office is always a great place to have a conversation. “It is okay for the doctor to look at your body because she/he is going to make sure you’re healthy. This is only okay because I am here.” With my preschooler we talk about body safety often in the bathtub as well. It has become a normal conversation in our household – no stigma attached. This ensures that if my child ever needed to talk to me about something, they feel comfortable with this topic. Sex education is coming from ME to my pre-teen, not his peers. This way I feel assured that he has correct information and feels comfortable talking to me when questions come up.
Children are not born understanding social norms for privacy. Toddlers and preschoolers often show their private parts because they don’t know any better. Instead of discouraging the behavior when it happens, start talking about it before it happens! What is a private part? Who can see my private parts? Who should not?
Learn more as a parent:
As you may know, we do a Body Safety parent education night in March. While this night has passed, we’d be happy to share resources with you upon request. Your child’s guide has had this training as well. Feel free to contact our staff if you have questions or need resources. We want you to be having these conversations at home. Let us know what we can do to help!
As always, thank you for being a partner in your child’s education. Our true mission at The Montessori School is to send children out into the world who are knowledgeable, well-rounded, confident, and good people. Knowledge is power. I hope you will share this important topic with your child at home!
Ann Pilzner, Head of School