Hello, everyone! A bit ago, I promised to chat a bit about how/why/when it is appropriate to start talking to your little one about sexual boundaries. In an age where 1 in 6 girls, and 1 in 10 boys will be the victims of sexual assault, the need for this discussion is greater than ever, yet, it can seem so hard to know how to begin!
It also isn’t something I can consolidate into one post, my thoughts are everywhere, and there are so many layers to this issue that I want to make sure to discuss. Tonight, I just wanted to start the topic with a few points that have worked for us, and supply some great links at the end.
Please note, I am not a psychiatrist, and I have no medical or educational background in this field. I am a mom to 7, and this issue is near to my heart.
Believe it or not, you start the dialogue of boundaries when you first hold your baby! Bear with me…
When you hold that little one close to your heart, are you kissing them? Hugging them? Rubbing little foreheads, toes, hands, legs, backs..of course you are, because they are adorable and it is what every fiber of your being instinctively tells you to do. Your first message of touch to your baby is that:
1) touch is good
2) touch is loving
3) when you want touch to stop, I stop
As soon as your baby is *done* with having their face kissed, by pulling away or fussing, you know it is time to stop, and move onto the next activity, be it feeding, cuddling, a diaper change, etc..
That is truly the core of what they need to know for their lifetime, and you as a parent have already done it. So, breathe! Hard part is over ğ
Those principles are always a good core base to remember as they get older. There are so many daily examples of this that you may not even realize, including…
-if you are playing a tickle game, and they go from laughing to asking you to stop, you stop
-If they bump their head on furniture learning to walk, you kiss their boo boo
And so many other incidents where this can come into play.
This can come into play early on in social situations.Â I am a firm believer that if your baby or toddler says “no” when a hug or kiss is requested, that their resistance is not seen as being stubborn or unloving, but respected as their position on what happens to their body.
As small as it is, this situation can play a crucial role in future situations, and your response is important. I completely understand that this can be so tricky at family gatherings. At home? No big deal, mom asks for a kiss, toddler says no, 5 minutes later they change their mind and you get a juicy smooch.Â Christmas dinner with the first time meeting Grandma? Everyone is watching, the room is quiet, and baby Emma clings to mom tighter than a hungry Koala, and screams “NO!!!!!”Â Your cheeks are red, your body is tense, and can’t the child who licks the shopping cart just plant a quick one on grandma’s cheek?Â If this situation is a potential one for your family, the best thing to do is to have a plan beforehand. Talk it over with your partner, and know what the course of action will be.Â Sure, you can force it, but baby Emma will be screaming, she may even accidentally kick or flail and hurt grandma, the situation will be loud and cause other family members to become way more involved in it than they should be.
I think it is a tad easier, and in the long run, more proactive, to decide that baby Emma may not want to, and by simply saying “Oh Grandma, we are so excited to see you, but Emma is a little shy around new people. I know soon she will be ready to meet you” Then, sit down on the floor, open a favorite book, or get a snack, and calmly breathe through it, your calm tone and response will be the message to everyone in the room that your child is one of them, and her needs will be respected. I honestly have even practiced what I wanted to say before big events, so when I have to say it, I sound much more coherent than fumbling with my words.
EDIT- thank you to the comment below who suggested that “shy” may not be the best choice of words to apply that adjective to a child’s instincts. Indeed that is true! Taking out the “Emma is a little shy around new people” is a great idea, and doesn’t have an impact on her in any way~
Why is this important? Because if your baby is old enough to say no, he/she is old enough to realize that they have decision making capabilities regarding their own body. And that is importantÂ in strengthening their confidence in those decisions, and teaching them to trust their instincts. Now, does that mean that their instinct about Grandma is that she is a threat? Absolutely not, but that instinct says that right now, in this moment, I don’t want to show affection to somebody, for whatever reason they deem it so. Now, think back in your own life, and apply that reasoning to past scenarios. Has there ever been a time someone requested affection, and you didn’t feel 100% about it? A creepy co-worker at the Christmas party? A relative you only saw once a year? A neighbor who you didn’t fully trust or like, but didn’t have a concrete reason not to?
I am not saying that having to kiss Grandma will equate to a dangerous situation later in life, but the fact is that we don’t know what will run through our child’s mind at any age, and what experiences will flash through their heads in those split second decisions. There is a very strong case to give your baby and toddler every vote of confidence in their decisions to encourage them to listen to that voice, and mold those instincts. Next week we will chat more! A few links below that relate to this