books for kids about appropriate touch, books for kids about safety, books for kids about sexual abuse

Keeping Kids Safe from Inappropriate Touch

Top 10 Books to Empower Kids About Their Bodies

The stats on child sexual abuse are alarming.  I met author and mom, Jay Dale, on Twitter and she asked me if I was going to cover this issue. I usually post lists of books but wasn’t familiar with books on this topic, and honestly, I struggle with the Birds and the Bees Talk. Still, this is a really important topic and I am delighted that Jay agreed to guest post for me.

Here’s a few more books:

Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!) by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos, illustrated by Marta Fàbrega

A very gentle book describing the difference between good secrets and bad secrets and what to do if you have a bad secret. [picture book, ages 4 to 7]

No More Secrets for Me by Oralee Wachter, illustrated by Jane Aaron

In four separate stories on the theme of sexual abuse of children, young victims are able to articulate their feelings and defend themselves, often with the help of another person whom they trust.

Laurie Tells by Linda Lowrery, illustrated by John Eric Karpinski

It’s been two years since it first happened when Laurie was nine-years-old and she still can’t understand why her dad is hurting her.

But now it’s not monsters and spooks

that scare me.

Now it’s my dad.

The first time it happened,

I was nine.

He was saying good-night,

scratching my back.

And then he reached

under my nightgown

and touched my body all over.

I hated what he was doing to me.

I began to cry.

[advanced picture book, ages 9 and up]

 

————————

We teach our children water safety and road safety — it is equally important to teach our children ‘body safety’ from a very young age. As both a teacher and a mother, I strongly recommend to all parents that ‘body safety’ become a normal part of your parenting conversation. The sexual abuse of children has no social boundaries, and providing children with body safety skills empowers them with knowledge of what is good and bad touch.

The statistics of 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually interfered with before their 18th birthday is truly frightening, and as many experts point out, this statistic only reflects reported cases. Also 93% of children will know their perpetrator. The community’s focus has so often been on ‘stranger danger’ — however, the reality is, the perpetrator will be most likely be someone in the child’s immediate family circle and a person they know and trust.

There are a number of fantastic books available to teach children body safety skills. Children are visual learners so story is an excellent medium when broaching this subject with your child. Here are my top ten.

1. Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept by Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Craig Smith

2. My Body Belongs to Me by Jill Starishevsky, illustrated by Sara Muller

A rhyming book that speaks to children about boundaries when it comes to touching and their bodies. It’s pretty graphic despite the simple rhymes:

“My uncle’s friend came over

and sat down next to me,

 

and touched me in that place

that no one else can see.”

3. Everyone’s Got a Bottom by Tess Rowley, illustrated by Jodi Edwards

4. Matilda Learns a Valuable Lesson by Holly-Ann Martin, illustrated by Marilyn Fahie

5. Jasmine’s Butterflies by Justine O’Malley, illustrated by Carey Lawrence

6. Amazing You by Dr Gail Saltz, illustrated by Lynne Avril Cravath

7. The Right Touch by Sandy Kleven, illustrated by Jody Bergsma

A read-aloud story to help prevent child sexual abuse. “Lots of kids say they get warning feelings when things are not safe. Some children say it’s a nervous feeling. Others say that their tummies feel upset. So be sure to pay attention when warning feelings tell you to watch out.”

“Sometimes grown-ups, babysitters, and bigger kids try to trick children into secret touching games that might seem fun at first. … And remember, touching problems are never a child’s fault.”

8. It’s My Body by Lory Freeman Girard, illustrated by Carol Deach

9. I Said No! by Zack and Kimberly King, illustrated by Sue Rama

10. Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Spelman, illustrated by Teri Weidner

 Click on image of book to view at Amazon or here at Barnes and Nobles. If no image, try your local library as it is out of print.

books for kids about appropriate touch, books for kids about safety, books for kids about sexual abuse

To further help parents, here is a summary of the very important body safety skills every parent should teach their child. Please note, these skills can be taught gradually and in daily conversations as your child grows.

Body Safety Skills

1. As soon as your child begins to talk and is aware of their body parts, begin to name them correctly, e.g. toes, nose, eyes, etc. Children should also know the correct names for their genitals from a young age. Try not to use ‘pet names’. This way, if a child is touched inappropriately, they can clearly state to you or a trusted adult where they have been touched.

2. Teach your child that their penis, vagina, bottom, breasts and nipples are called their ‘private parts’ and that these are their body parts that go under their swimsuit. Note: a child’s mouth is also known as a ‘private zone’.

3. Teach your child that no-one has the right to touch or ask to see their private parts (and if someone does, they must tell you or a trusted adult (or older teenager) straight away. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed. (Statistics tell us that a child will need to tell three people before they are believed.) As your child becomes older (3+) help them to identify five people they could tell. These people are part of their ‘network’.

4. Teach you child that if some-one (i.e. the perpetrator) asks them to touch their own private parts or shows their private parts to the child that this is wrong also, and that they must tell a trusted adult (or older teenager) straightaway. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed.

5. At the same time as you are discussing in appropriate touch, talk about feelings. Discuss what it feels like to be happy, sad, angry, excited, etc. Encourage your child in daily activities to talk about their feelings, e.g. ‘I felt really sad when … pushed me over.’ This way your child will be more able to verbalise how they are feeling if someone does touch them inappropriately.

6. Talk with your child about feeling ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’. Discuss times when your child might feel ‘unsafe’, e.g. being pushed down a steep slide; or ‘safe’, e.g. snuggled up on the couch reading a book with you. Children need to understand the different emotions that come with feeling ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’. For example, when feeling ‘safe’, they may feel happy and have a warm feeling inside; when feeling ‘unsafe’ they may feel scared and have a sick feeling in their tummy.

7. Discuss with your child their ‘early warning signs’ when feeling unsafe, i.e. heart racing, feeling sick in the tummy, sweaty palms, feeling like crying. Let them come up with some ideas of their own. Tell your child that they must tell you if any of their ‘early warning signs’ happen in any situation. Reinforce that you will always believe them and that they can tell you anything.

8. As your child grows, try as much as possible to discourage the keeping of secrets. (Perpetrators rely heavily on children keeping secrets.) Talk about happy surprises such as not telling Granny about her surprise birthday party and ‘bad’ secrets such as someone touching your private parts. Make sure your child knows that if someone does ask them to keep an inappropriate secret that they must tell you or someone in their network straight away.

9. Discuss with your child when it is appropriate for someone to touch their private parts, e.g. a doctor if they are sick (but making sure they know you must be in the room). Discuss with your child that if someone does touch their private parts (without you there) they have the right to say: ‘No!’ or ‘Stop!’ and outstretch their arm and hand. Children (from a very young age) need to know their body is their body and no-one has the right to touch it in appropriately.

10. Lastly, sexual abuse prevention education is not only a parent’s responsibly, it is also the community’s responsibility. Ask your child’s kinder or school if they are running such a program. If they are not, ask why not. And PLEASE lobby for it.

Note: The above points are a summary of the body safety skills your child needs to learn. If you wish to learn more, go to such organizations as Just Tell, Childhelp and Stop It Now.

 

Some General Grooming Techniques to be Wary Of

• Be aware of any person who wishes to spend a great deal of time with your child, seeking out their company and offering to take care of them.

• A person who pays special attention to your child, making them feel more special than any other child; providing them with special treats, presents, sweets, etc.

• A person who is always willing to help out and ‘babysit’ when you are extremely busy and pushed for time.

Note: Sexual offenders will always plan who they target, they will work hard at getting both the child and the family’s trust. They will create opportunities to be alone with children or groups of children and may well target vulnerable communities.

They frequently change jobs and address to avoid detection. They will often spend a lot of time with children outside of their jobs. Sex offenders may well set up a scenario where a child has a reputation for lying so as to discredit them if they ever should disclose.

Normal sexual behavior

Children have a natural curiosity about their bodies and sex. This is normal. If you see any of the following behavior try not to react in a negative way. Sexual curiosity is how child learn about their gender. Age appropriate sexual behavior is as follows:

• babies, toddler and young children exploring their genitals and enjoying being naked

• question about why they have a penis and girls don’t (vice a versa), ie trying to work out the difference between what it is to be male and what it is to be female

• showing others their genitals

• playing doctors and nurses and/or mommies and daddies, kissing holding hands with children of a similar age

• using slang words or ‘rude’ words they have picked up

• looking at each other’s body parts (particularly children under 7, close in age and who know each other ) in mutual agreement, ie no-one is being forced to show each other’s their body parts

• as they get older, curious about where they came from; may be giggly and embarrassed about body parts discussion

 

Some General Signs that a Child (0 to 12 years) May be Being Sexually Abused

Note: one or more of these indicators does not mean your child is being sexually abused, but if they do show these indicators, then there is good reason to investigate further.

• overly interested in theirs or other’s genitals continually wants to touch private parts of other children

• instigating and/or forcing ‘sex play’ with another child (often younger, more than 3 years difference in age)

• sex play not appropriate ie oral genital contact between a 7 year old and a 4 year old

• sex play with another child happening more than once, despite careful monitoring and discussion about inappropriateness

• persistent masturbation that does not cease when told to stop

• sexualized play with dolls or toys

• sexualized play involving forced penetration of objects vaginally or anally

• chronic peeping, exposing and obscenities

• touching or rubbing against the genitals of adults or children they do not know

• persistent use of ‘dirty’ words

• describing sexual acts and sexualized behavior beyond their years

• strong body odor

• sores around the mouth

• bruising or bleeding in the genital area, bruising to breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen or thighs

• withdrawn and anxious behavior

• secretive or say they have a ‘special’ secret that they must not tell

• child or child’s friend telling you about interference directly or indirectly

• going to bed fully clothed

• increase in nightmares and sleep disturbances

• regressive behavior, for example, a return to bed-wetting or soiling

• unexplained accumulation of money and gifts

 

In older children (adolescents)

• self-destructive behavior such as drug dependency, suicide attempts, self-mutilation

• eating disorders

• adolescent pregnancy

• persistent running away from home

• withdrawn, angry

• pornography interest; verbally sexually aggressive obscenities

 

Jayneen Sanders (aka Jay Dale) is a teacher, author, mother of three teenage daughters and an active advocate for sexual abuse prevention education both in the home and in schools. Jayneen has written many children’s books over the last 20 years and is currently the lead author of Engage Literacy —a new P–3 literacy series published by Capstone Classroom. Jayneen is the author of the children’s picture book Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept. To be read to children ages 3 to 12 years. 
The book includes notes to parents, and discussion questions to guide parents, carergivers and teachers. For more information on this topic and Jay’s book go to www.somesecrets.info

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

43 Comments

  1. It is such an important issue one can never be prepared enough! You covered every aspect of this problem, thanks so much for posting this. Sometimes I feel like people are scared to talk about body safety – it makes them uncomfortable or maybe scared, not sure.
    Alexandra recently posted…School is for teaching – almost WordlessWednesdayMy Profile

  2. This is an excellent post on an incredibly difficult topic. Thanks for posting it on your blog.
    maryanne recently posted…Kid Quotes: Just Like MineMy Profile

  3. What an amazing list of resources for parents, teachers, students and medical personnel. I love the fact that the warning signs are shown for different age groups making it that much easier for discussion groups. Will definitely pin to my board!

    • Thanks Barbara! I am grateful to Jay for supplying such extensive and helpful information on such an important topic. It will certainly make talking about it with my kids easier! My school does a program every year as well but it’s probably something that should be reinforced periodically at home (though it is a difficult and uncomfortable topic!).
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Our Best Wishes to Renn, A Jedi MasterMy Profile

  4. These are all our favorites as well! Also enjoying The Sex-Wise Parent for my own reading to break apart the taboo of understand sexuality and the importance of not being afraid to talk to our children about their bodies, puberty & sexuality.

  5. Cindy

    Never in my life did i think I would have to deal with someone I knew being sexually molested – mustless TWO – and both very young nephews of mine! This prompted me to be an over- bearing, over-cautious, and a STAY HOME mom involved in everything my 3 kids did. Feeling that I made it through and ‘saved’ my kids, i now have to worry about my 6 yr old granddaughter who spends most time w/her mother & who knows who else. Ive gotten no help from DCFS even tho her mama has an older cousin staying with her that has a pending case of child abuse. It seems like grandparents have any rights. All I want is for my precious granddaughter to have a safe & normal life – as all children should. The fear I have inside of me is so overwhelming & I’m constantly stressed out to the point that this is all I can think of. If she is not spending the night with us, all I do is lay awake and pray until I fall asleep. Any suggestions? Any LEGAL suggestions? Thank you…..

    • I think it would be a really good idea to ring the Hotline for Childhelp if you are in the US and ask their opinion. Very tricky subject but action is required to protect this little girl.

    • Hi Cindy,
      Did you see Jayleen’s comment? I’ll email it to you too:

      I think it would be a really good idea to ring the Hotline for Childhelp if you are in the US and ask their opinion. Very tricky subject but action is required to protect this little girl.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Pi Day!My Profile

      • Cindy

        Thank you so much for your advice. Apparently Ive been told I don’t have any ‘evidence’ but in the same token I have warned the states atty & lawyer that if ANYTHING happens, someone is going to pay dearly for my princess. One of the worst things I forgot to mention is that mom is an alcoholic & my little one is not getting to school everyday. I’m again wondering where the law is…where is DCFS or truancy? Its not like I haven’t told them this. She just gets drunk & does not wake up til 12 or 1 in the afternoon. She missed last Thurs & Fri and this Tues & Wed. Guess Kindergarten isn’t important enough to monitor….. I really appreciate your suggestions & you’ve encouraged me again to get back on the band wagon & KEEP TRYING. Thank you much….

  6. Ann

    Very important topic. I am so glad I read it. I would prefer to avoid it and just not let my kids out of my sight but I know this is not always possible as they get older. Thanks for the book list.
    Ann recently posted…Pot of Gold CraftMy Profile

  7. Cindy, find a clinical psychologist with experience in child sexual abuse – most states have a website to search psychologists based on their specialty. They would probably be the best person to ask advice.

    • Cindy

      God Bless you for your comments & concerns. I’m feeling more confident (as opposed to where I was – giving up) about where to go for resources.

    • Hi Adrianne,
      Thank you so much for giving such helpful advice to Cindy. It could make a huge difference for her granddaughter’s well being. I can imagine that it’s very frustrating for her that no action is taking place and she is worried sick about her. It’s such a difficult position to be in.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Let’s Go Fly a Kite!My Profile

  8. Great to see “Jasmine’s Butterflies” on your list. My latest Protective Behaviours children’s story book is due for release next month. The Protective Behaviours Program assists children to develop personal safety strategies and the storybook “Michael’s Bubbles” will help teach children about the concept of personal space and safe touch. Look out for its release on our website http://www.protectivebehaviourswa.org.au

  9. This is quite a difficult topic to discuss with your children. But as parents, you must overcome the difficulties on order to protect your children. This is one step to that. Thanks for sharing it.
    KC recently posted…CLUE Report, Comprehensive Loss Underwriting ExchangeMy Profile

    • I totally agree. Adults fear of this topic is putting our children at risk. Forewarned is forearmed. And knowledge, especially about their bodies, empowers children.

      • Hi Jayneen,
        I would also say that constant reinforcement is important. My kids get this message from time to time from a special presentation at school and at their karate studio, but it’s not enough. I have to remember to check in with them more and a book would help me to bring it up so I appreciate this list from Jay Dale myself!

        • Actually, if you start when they’re young, it’s really not that uncomfortable. Just like we teach them not to hit or to stop tickling if someone says no, we need to teach them that their privates are special and deserve special respect. Protecting kids’ bodies doesn’t even involve the word sex until they’re old enough. It’s really about respect for our bodies and other people and letting them know we are their protectors. We make it uncomfortable for ourselves by trying to ignore the existence of sexuality in our growing children. Abuse is scary – prevention isn’t!

    • Hi KC,
      I totally agree with it is an uncomfortable topic to discuss with kids but you are right that we still need to do it.

  10. Dear Friends,

    This essay is very helpful to anyone who cares about children. Thank you for posting it! I also think that children need training in self-defense to help them avoid abuse. I think that all school systems should give self-defense training to kids.

    Best wishes!
    Janet Heller Author of the award-winning book for kids about bullying, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Sylvan Dell, hardback–2006, paperback–2007, e-book, audio, and Spanish edition–2008, 3rd paperback edition and iPad app–2012)

    • Hi Janet,
      You bring up a good point. Self defense for kids is never a wasted experience. I doubt that schools would ever be able to do this but I am also a firm believer in teaching kids self defense through martial arts. A black belt is not necessary but a year or two is enough to be effective.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Lysol No Touch GIVEAWAYMy Profile

  11. Wonderful! We are JustTell -the only US nonprofit whose mission is to encourage youth who are being sexually abused to choose an adult they trust and tell them what’s happening. We thank you got this great post. We’ll be sharing links to it. Thank you!!

  12. Lynda Arkwright

    Thank you for also informing people about non-touch methods of sexual abuse that sexual abusers are known to use.

  13. You know what’s sad? We have to give these kinds of books to the kids. I’m going to buy a couple for my nieces and nephews to educate them.
    Christopher James recently posted…The Trinity CodeMy Profile

  14. I sigh when I read the “warning signs of being groomed” because parenting is hard and its awful that people have to start distrusting those who want to help. I’m not arguing with that point, just thinking its hard.
    Christy recently posted…Reasons to NOT Support Operation Christmas ChildMy Profile

  15. Hi! Thanks for the wonderful article! Shedding light on the topic of abuse is the first step toward prevention and here you have shed much light! May we share this article at the Stop Abuse Campaign? And also, may I send you copies of I”M THE BOSS OF ME and WE ARE JUST ALIKE for use in future articles? Thanks so much for all you do to be part of the solution, Lala : )

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