"Let her be a child".
I love this phrase and have adopted it as a mothering mantra. This phrase has encouraged me to remember that children get grumpy when tired, love extra snuggles and giggles, and make lots of messes. It comes with being a child. Letting my four year old daughter be a child means a lot of things to me, but recently I pondered on how I can keep her safe and aware, and yet not burst the bright bubble of innocence.Childhood innocence is such a precious and fragile gift, especially in our fast-paced, digital world that is growing ever less child centered. In some ways, our society seems to prize adult privileges above the safety of children.
Child sex abuse statistics do not paint a reassuring picture, but stay with me, this is a safe and happy post in the end. In fact, I am not even going to get into the statistics--they can be found with a simple Google search. But what I am going to get into is resources that teach and protect children, while still honoring their innocent and tender hearts. Teaching my daughter, in child friendly ways, is the best way I can think of to safeguard herself, keep her childhood, and "let her be a child".
After scouring Amazon and reviews, I bought all three of these for around $30. I am clustering these three together, because I think that they work best when used together. To me, each adds a clarifying piece to the safety puzzle, a comprehensive trinity. I love the cartoon look of the books. They take a very scary subject to adults, and makes it approachable for kids. My daughter loves me to read these books to her because they don't feel scary or intimidating, but empowering and exciting. Pattie Fitzgerald wrote "Super Duper Safety School" and "NO Trespassing--This Is My Body!", while Jennifer Moore-Mallinos wrote "Do You Have a Secret?"
If you were to buy only one of these three books, I would start with this book. It covers so many safety concerns in clear and relevant ways. Among the subjects introduced to kids are what safe and unsafe means, and 9 different safety rules, such as #1 "I am the BOSS of my body", and #9 "I will always tell my parents if I get an 'UH-OH' feeling", #4 "Ask First, and get permission from parents before you go anywhere with anyone", and #3 "Safe Grown-Ups DON'T ask kids for help, especially when you are by yourself". What I most appreciated was the concept of "tricky people". The author tells kids to pay attention to what people say and what they want kids to do. Tricky people aren't recognizable by how they look--they may look nice and smile. Essentially, the author defines tricky people as being someone who wants kids to break safety rules. If they are tricky, get away fast and tell Mom and Dad. At the end of the book, there is very helpful Parent's Guide, and a bookmark with the safety rules on it.
This book details safety rule #1 of the Super Duper Safety Club, "I am the Boss of my own body." My favorite part of this book is how it instructs kids that their own comfortability with how people interact with them and their bodies is more important than politeness. If children are encouraged to be polite instead of saying they don't want certain hugs, or other innocuous touching, they are not likely to advocate for themselves in dangerous touching situations. A short Parent's Guide is included in the back of the book, as is a few blank pages for children's coloring and notes. This book briefly mentions not keeping secrets, so I bought the next book because I wanted to talk about it more in depth with my daughter.
Some take the approach that there are no good secrets, but I personally feel like that can be a bit confusing and shameful for kids. I love this book because it helped me be able to talk to my daughter about good secrets and bad secrets. Sometimes there are secrets that can't be classified as "surprises", like a secret handshake with a friend, or a secret hiding place for hide and seek. Good secrets are those which make you and other people happy. Bad secrets can make us worry, or feel bad inside. And the author reassures that if a child has a bad secret, that telling a safe grown up will help them feel better.
Let Them Be Children By Protecting Their Childhood.
Though it may seem paradoxical, the best way to protect our children's innocent smiles, bright eyes, and carefree attitudes, is by teaching them about unsafe and safe behaviors and situations, and encouraging them to speak up if they feel uncomfortable. Keeping them safe doesn't mean that they, or us, need be perpetually worried and scared. In fact, I have found that it has done the opposite for me and my daughter. Putting safety dialogue at the forefront of our home has brought more peace of mind than I thought possible. So along with smiling at sticky popsicle fingers and impromptu dance parties that seem to be hallmarks of being a child, I also try to let her be a child by safeguarding her body and innocence.
Are there other resources you have come across that safeguard childhood? How do you "let them be children"?
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