Teaching Body Safety

June 3, 2024, cassieley

Recently, in the Live and Learn with Your Baby class I attend, we listened to a guest speaker, Marissa, discuss body safety. Marissa has experience interviewing child sexual assault victims and is also a mom, and she shared her advice for keeping kids safe. It can be a difficult topic to talk about (or even think about), but it is essential for the safety and well-being of our kids. I am grateful for a class that was willing to approach this topic so that I could feel more confident about keeping my daughter safe, and so I want to share what I learned.

Young child and mother stick out their tonguesOne of the most important practical tips is to use anatomically correct language with your children. Someone shared a story of a child informing their teacher that someone wanted to see their “cookie,” only for the teacher to find out later that the child was not referring to a dessert. Not only does labeling body parts correctly help in the case of reporting an offense, but it can also be a deterrent to potential offenders. From a young age, you can label body parts during diaper changes and explain who is and is not allowed to see those areas – parents and doctors versus others. Songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” normalize the labeling of body parts. You can also normalize consent – “Would you like to hug grandma with your arms or wave with your hands?” Using precise names for body parts and respecting bodily autonomy from a young age is foundational to body safety.

An elderly woman with a toddler great-grandchild on a terrace on a sunny day in autumn, giving high five.Another piece of advice I appreciated was to have one hundred 1-minute conversations rather than putting pressure on one 100-minute conversation. Body safety can be a casual conversation that you have daily! And it does not solely need to revolve around sexual safety. For example, “We don’t touch knives because they are sharp. What else do we do to stay safe? We don’t let other people see our private parts.” I like the idea of having frequent casual, low-pressure conversations so that it is normal and your kids feel safe talking about it with you.

Black child kissing her mother, while mother laughts. ABC House logo in the lower right corner

What surprised me most was the advice on what parents should do if their child does share that something inappropriate has happened. Marissa cautioned against asking too many questions. Instead, ask who, what, where, when, and call the police. Ask the police if they have been trained in working with children, and if they still need to, ask them to involve the ABC House. The ABC House “is the Children’s Advocacy Center serving Benton & Linn Counties. [They] provide high-quality child abuse assessments and support services for local children and youth when there are concerns of abuse and neglect.” Allowing the experts to interview the child is essential so that the child is not “contaminated,” so to speak. If an accusation were to arise, it would be highly emotional for a parent, and you do not want to ask questions that unintentionally lead a child to say certain things. Instead, if your child says something concerning, stick to the basics and bring in the experts.

Marissa shared with us shocking statistics about how prevalent child abuse is, but she also empowered us with information and practical advice. Empower your child with language to protect their body. Build a relationship of open and safe communication. Call in the experts if needed.


Resources for Reporting Abuse:

ODHS: How to Report Abuse or Neglect

ABC House: Reporting Abuse & Recognizing the Signs


Resource for Parents on Teaching Body Safety:

Committee for Children: The Hot Chocolate Talk How-To Guide

ParentsTogether: How to talk to kids about body curiosity, consent, and safety — without shame

SelectBooks: My Body Belongs to Me – Two-Book Bundle for Caregivers and Young Children