Of course we talk about it.
Your private parts are private for a reason. No one should touch or really even see them.
Even going to the doctor, we talk ahead of time about how the doctor has reason to check their “underwear area” but that a parent can stay in the room (Mom can turn her back if that makes the child feel more comfortable or even leave the room and have a nurse there instead).
We’ve never been a family to force even a hug on a child who doesn’t want it. No kissing or giving a hug to a relative if they don’t want to. They can’t be rude: they still need to say hi or goodbye, but that doesn’t need to accompany a touch if they don’t want to.
We talk about how everyone has control over what happens to their own body. So they can’t be touched if they don’t want it and they can’t touch anyone else unless that person wants them to. With this one, my boys read more into things like punching or kicking than they do inappropriate touches, but at least it’s a start.
We tell them they can come to us with anything, to tell us if any situation is making them uncomfortable or if they’re upset. To let us know so we can help them.
Because this is what we’re supposed to do, to talk to our kids about having control over their own bodies and to let them know that others are not allowed to touch them.
But it’s an awkward, uncomfortable conversation, so we say just these things and leave it go at that.
I like to think that my boys have only ever been around “safe” people and so this isn’t an issue.
And it hasn’t been. Let me be absolutely clear about this: my boys are fine, they are unharmed, they have not been in a situation where they were exposed to anything even remotely traumatizing.
But, I’d like to keep it that way.
And after having a conversation with someone whom I never, ever would have guessed was sexually molested, it hit me that I need to do more than throw out a few vague platitudes.
I need to have the uncomfortable conversations.
To talk more specifically about what isn’t appropriate. How certain areas of their bodies shouldn’t be touched by others and how they shouldn’t be made to touch anyone else, either.
To realize that those I consider “safe” people might not be and that I can’t make assumptions.
To reinforce that they really can talk to us about anything, even if (and maybe even especially if) someone tells them they aren’t allowed to tell.
To let our kids know that we want to keep them safe and that we’ll do everything we can to keep them that way or to make them that way again if something were to happen.
Because while it’s an uncomfortable conversation, it’s far better to have it than than to have something happen to them or having them silently suffer through it.