How to Teach Kids about Bodily Autonomy
You might be thinking, her kid isn’t even in pre-school yet what does she know about how to teach kids about bodily autonomy? It’s the kind of thing that a lot of people don’t start thinking about until their kids hit puberty. Even though the subject of consent and bodily autonomy apply to any kind of physical contact.
So what is bodily autonomy and how is it different from consent?
Bodily autonomy basically means that a person is in charge of what happens to their body. It’s a concept that is applied in law when it comes to donating organs or blood even after you die.
Consent means that you agree to physical contact from hugs to penetrative sex or for invasive medical procedures like donating organs or blood.
Why is it important to teach kids about bodily autonomy?
Kids need to know that their body is their own. They don’t have to do anything they’re not comfortable with. If you’re open about it and talk about it regularly, it makes sense to me that they’re likely to tell you if something untoward does happen. They also need to know to respect other people’s boundaries, that their friends might not want a hug and they need to respect that.
Ok then, so how do I teach my kids about bodily autonomy?
You can do this in a few simple ways, and non of them goes anywhere near the subject of sex.
Proper Names for Genitals
First off, teach your kids the correct names for their genitals. None of this ‘bits’ or ‘foo-foo’ nonesense. Penis and vulva, testicles and vagina. See? It’s not that hard is it?
This is for a couple of reasons – using proper names teaches them that those parts of their bodies are not shameful or something not to be kept secret. Obviously there’s a time and a place to talk about them but you want to make sure they’re comfortable talking to you about them.
Secondly, if there is something wrong like a urine infection, it will be a massive help if your kids can tell you and a doctor exactly where it hurts.
Ask Permission before giving kisses and cuddles
Explain that they should ask before giving other people kisses and cuddles. As much as you want to teach kids about their own bodily autonomy, it’s just as important to explain to them that the same applies to everyone else.
Don’t make them give kisses and cuddles
Don’t force them to give physical affection to friends or relatives. This is something I’m really hot on with Ragamuffin, in part because I’ve not been as assertive in this area as I’d like. Some family members insist on hugging me goodbye which makes me feel uncomfortable. I feel like I’m too far down the line now to refuse without offedning anyone. Now I make sure I have Ragamuffin in my arms so that people can’t physically get to me. It also means that I’m close by to make sure Ragamuffin doesn’t feel pressured into kisses and cuddles.
Explain that they must stop if asked
Teach them that ‘stop’ or ‘no’ mean just that. I like to use tickling as an example here. It starts off as a bit of fun where we’re all laughing and giggling but there comes a time when either me or daddy have had enough. I explain to Ragamuffin that when the other person says ‘no’, or ‘stop’ that she must listen. As with most 3 year olds she doesn’t always want to stop doing something if she’s been asked to stop but we’re working on it.
I’ve also had to make a point of this in front of visitors. If when we have couples over, one tells Ragamuffin to tickle the other, I always make a point of telling her to make sure the person she’s about to tickle is ok with it.
Talk to You
Explain that it’s important that they tell you if someone touches them. Especially if it makes them feel uncomfortable or if they’re told to keep it secret.
You should also mention that sometimes you or a doctor will need to check that their genitals are healthy. They should know that anything like this will always be as quick as possible will never be kept secret.
The 5 key points to teach kids about bodily autonomy are:
- Teach them proper names for body parts
- They should ask permission before kissing or hugging others
- Don’t force them to kiss or cuddle people if they don’t want to
- Explain how important it is to listen if people ask them to stop
- Tell them it’s important to tell you if they are touched in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable
I’ve just scratched the surface with this post, for more great info on teaching your kids about sex, puberty and consent you should definitely check out Sex Ed Rescue which is packed full of useful information.
You may also enjoy: