There are a few things going on in the world right now that have me very concerned. One of them is the flu epidemic. The other is Dr. Larry Nassar and how he sexually abused well over 150 women and young girls. Because of this, it reignited a conversation that I have had several times with Tre about his body.
So, one morning this past week during breakfast, a news story was on featuring the victims reading their statements during Dr. Nassar’s sentencing hearing. In the midst of the story I decided to ask Tre a question. I said, “Tre, who is allowed to see you naked?” He immediately responded, with a little shrug, saying, his father and I along with specific family members and some very close friends who are essentially ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ to him. I reminded him that because he is getting older and can handle himself while using the restroom, getting dressed and bathing, those are not things his father and I plan to do for him very much anymore and he should not expect anyone else to. My point with that was he should expect to have increased privacy when necessary.
I went on to ask him if anyone is supposed to touch him on his body, and specifically on his private parts (calling them by name), and he said “no.” I explicitly told him that if anyone ever touches him on his body in a place that makes him feel uncomfortable he is to immediately tell that person to stop, tell the [next] closest adult and also tell his parents ASAP. This includes in church, school, play dates, on field trips, in summer camp and any other setting he could possibly think of.
I don’t find it uncomfortable or strange that at 5 (almost 6) years old, I am having this conversation with him. The rate at which children are being abused and taken advantage of is growing exponentially. And while this is happening, some parents may feel uncomfortable engaging in this type of dialogue with their children. I want Tre to know that NO ONE is to ever take advantage of his body for any reason and private parts are called that for a reason.
So we have 4 rules concerning his body. #1- There is a very short list of people who are allowed to see him naked. #2- No one is allowed to touch him in a place and/or way that makes him feel uncomfortable. #3- There are parts of his body that no one is supposed to see. Likewise, there are parts of other people’s bodies he is not supposed to see, including his parents. #4- If something happens concerning his body, he has the authority to tell the assailant to STOP immediately.
When I decided to engage in this conversation with him a couple of years ago, I will be honest, I did not consult a manual, his doctor or anyone else. I simply went with what my gut told me and what I know to be true- his body is not to be tampered with. And, with that, I started talking. I don’t want him to feel uncomfortable about having these kinds of conversations with us, so I don’t give it a disclaimer by saying, “OK, Tre we are going to talk to you about something very serious…,” I just start talking and asking questions. He then answers them, and we move on. I figure if I make these talks a part of our normal conversation it will not be awkward or feel foreign to him should he ever need to tell us something very serious.
I hope my thoughts on this topic will spark a healthy and productive dialogue within families as it relates to how we talk to our kids about how to safeguard their bodies. Yes, I understand this is a sensitive topic, but one that is very important and requires conversation. –krystal