Secrets & Surprises - Talking To Your Child About Body Safety

January 12, 2022

When we become parents, we are constantly looking out for our children, doing what we can to keep them safe. At Green Shoots International School, the safety of the students in our care, your children, is always at the forefront of our thinking. But we also believe we must teach our children to keep themselves safe. Our PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economics) curriculum teaches children about their personal and social growth and development and added to this, each year we hold “Body Awareness Week” when we remind our students of these concepts daily.

Using  age-appropriate materials and topics, tailored to meet the needs of the students in each individual class. Our aim is to ensure our students have the correct vocabulary and language to talk about their bodies; to understand issues of consent, to know that they have rights over their bodies, and to be confident in rejecting unwanted and inappropriate contact; to discuss the nature of “secrets” and “surprises;” to consider relationships and who is a trusted adult; and to consider health and personal hygiene. 

It is important that we teach our children that they have ownership of their bodies. This includes hugs and kisses from friends and family. Try to help others understand that they should ask if they can have a cuddle, and if that request is rejected, that’s okay, you are teaching your child that they can give or deny consent to anyone touching them. When children understand that they don’t have to do anything with their bodies they don’t want to, that they don’t have to be compliant, children become empowered. 

Help your children to become more in tune with their feelings and to trust their instincts. Helping them to recognise when they feel safe and comfortable and acknowledging with them when they feel scared and uncomfortable will help them develop an understanding of what feels right and what does not. While we teach children about stranger danger, sadly most sexual abuse is by someone who is trusted and loved. Encourage your children to talk to you and really listen to them and acknowledge they have been heard. Should your child report any untoward behaviour, always believe them, and make sure they know they are not in any way to blame. Let your child know that even if that person is someone you love, you will believe them. Communicate with your children regularly and know what is going on in their lives.

Here at school, we talk to our students about secrets and surprises. If you are talking to them about a sibling’s birthday present, tell them we are not telling anyone about it because it will be a nice surprise. We know that many abusers ask their victims to keep the abuse a ‘secret’ and children should know that they must tell their parents if they are asked to keep anything secret. Some secrets can be innocuous, but others can be devastating. 

As children get older, they may have secrets; a crush on a boy/girl, for example. Help older children realise the difference between good and bad secrets and that the information that is secret can have serious repercussions, so if an adult or even a friend tells them to keep a secret, they instinctively think is wrong, create a trusting relationship in which they will tell you about it.

In our PSHE lessons we teach our students about relationships; those that are healthy and those that are not. We help our students learn that good relationships are based on mutual respect, equality, and good communication, and that trust and honesty are important. Helping children to expect these characteristics of a relationship, and to settle for nothing less, will serve them well in their future.

Maxine Walton

PSHE Teacher & School Counsellor

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