Yesterday, in light of the #metoo campaign I spoke with my children.
Obviously they’re a bit too young to have details but we did discuss some key issues around body autonomy again.
Reminding them that it’s not what a person looks like, it’s behaviour that we can identify which tells us if something is ok or not.
Primarily telling them that the world is a beautiful place but there are somethings we need to be aware of, much like we need to know what to do when the house is on fire or how to dial 111, we need to know what to do if someone’s behaviour is unsuitable.
Teaching them both that when ANYONE say’s NO or STOP to them or you’re just not sure if they want your affection, you STOP.
This #metoo movement is heartbreaking and inspiring all at once.
I want us to live in a world where love and trust win but this campaign is highlighting that there are some conversations that still need to be had, as difficult as they are, while we seek to create spaces where love wins.
Everyone has opinions about if it’s needed or not, if it’s the right way for this to be happening, have we defined what ‘me too’ actually means?
But who cares about the semantics?!.
I am glad it’s started the conversation at such a worldwide level.
I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t have a story of serious sexual abuse and a huge part of that I think is due to my parents. They were conscious, aware and attentive about things like sexual safety. Yes, I have encountered harassment over the years, from catcalling to groping and that in itself is not ok or to be downplayed, but I managed to make it through my childhood unscathed. I honour my parents for their part in creating an environment that made that possible.
Now hear me, I’m not laying the blame for the sexual abuse of anyone has experienced it at their parents feet in the slightest, but I am expressing gratitude for the fact that my parents were at some level aware it was a possibility and taught me skills to express myself confidently and know what was not ok.
Because I think this awareness is part of where we go next with this.
We can change a generation. We have to.
If we who are parenting now can take the time to look this thing dead in the eye ourselves and then have the conversations that matter. The conversations with our kids that will equip them with tools to identify inappropriate behaviour and give them an action plan and words if they do.
Lets raise children who can respect others and themselves.
If enough of us consciously parented on this issue we could make a huge dent in those shocking statistics we’re seeing played out on our social media feeds.
If you don’t know how to talk to your kids, below is a very quick overview of some questions you can use to start the conversation with your primary aged kids and up.
I am NOT saying, that these things alone would have or can prevent abuse. But I am saying, lets start the conversation in a constructive way with the next generation.
This is information I’ve learnt over my time working with Protect NZ and there’s plenty more than what I can add here on one post.
I’m happy to point you in the direction of further resources if you want them.
- What does a "Dangerous Person" look like?
We want them to understand that a dangerous person could look like anybody. Baddies don’t always look like what we see on TV. It is not what someone looks like, or who they are that makes them dangerous, it is their behaviours that make them dangerous.
- Is it ok to say "No" to an adult?
Part of allowing and encouraging children to set their own physical boundaries is to let them know it is absolutely OK to say "No" and refuse instruction from an adult in some situations. I know this is a hard one when we’re trying to teach our kids to do what they’re told! But kids should know that as soon as an adult asks or tells them to do something that could place them in danger or involves their bathing suit zone or mouths, they have no obligation to be polite and should refuse and get to safety immediately.
- What are 'personal boundaries'. Do you have any and if so, what are they?
Personal Boundaries are the limits and rules we put in place to help us stay safe and in control of ourselves. Examples could be: "When I say "No" it really means “No’.
"If I don't want to hug or kiss or shake someone's hand because it doesn't feel right to me I don't have to", "My body belongs to me and I am always in charge of who gets to touch me’. This is a good time to talk about that ‘bathing suit’ zone and parts of your body that are private, including your mouth.
- NO, GO, YELL TELL.
It’s pretty self explanatory but this is a nice little phrase to help kids remember what somethings they can do if they’re in a situation where they feel unsafe.
No - say it loudly and firmly.
Go - get away from the person and the situation that’s making you feel unsafe
Yell - keep up the noise as you move away or if the person won’t stop.
Tell - make sure someone you trust knows whats happened. If they don’t help you, tell other people you trust until someone believes you.
Let me know if you want to talk or want to get hold of more info.