A guest post by Deanne Carson and Whitney Yip from Body Safety Australia.
These summer holidays, instead of leaving a trail of wrapping paper and discarded toys, leave a trail of good relationships for the children in your life.
At Body Safety Australia, we are constantly thinking about fun ways that adults can help children develop emotional and relationship skills to enhance their lives. Not only do Body Safety skills help children develop positive self esteem and interactions, they also enhance their protective behaviours and alert young people to signs that show someone intends to harm them.
We have put together four fun, simple Body Safety activities you can do with your children these holidays. While they are playing, you will be filling their emotional backpacks for now and in the future!
1. This is my body and it belongs to me
Parents these days are pretty on board with giving children the names of their private body parts. Using the words ‘penis, vagina and vulva’ no longer invites the risk of another parent’s ire from daycare or school.
Equipping children with language for their bodies is an excellent start. Follow that up with conversations about which body parts are public, personal and private.
At the beach or swimming pool change rooms, use the opportunity to talk about which body parts are covered up. Does what we cover up differ depending on the age of the person or whether their body has a penis or a vulva?
Public body parts include our arms, legs, head, back etc.
Personal body parts include our hands, eyes and mouth. Nobody can make us touch something, see something or put something in our mouths if it makes us uncomfortable.
Private body parts include our bottom, penis, testicles, vulva, nipples and breasts.
Have a discussion about who can touch our private body parts and why. Also talk about consent and touching other people’s private body parts.
Identifying our emotions is a learned skill that we teach children from infancy. A grizzling baby may be told, ‘You are sad, you’re crying! Are you tired? Do you need a nap?’ When we croon to babies this way they learn to identify their emotions (sad) and how they manifest in the body (crying) and to find a solution (sleep).
Playing Feelings Charades will increase your child’s ability to identify their own emotions and ability to read the emotions of others.
Brainstorm as many emotions as you can. Children who have seen Inside Out will be quick to name Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger in addition to other common emotions. If you are looking for inspiration, this emotion wheel can help.
Image Source: Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrasting_and_categorization_of_emotions
Using icy pole sticks (available at craft or department stores), write the emotions on the sticks. Place them face down on the floor. Each player takes turns choosing an icy pole stick. They then act out the emotion on the stick until another player guesses.
This is an excellent opportunity for reflecting on the child’s facial expressions and body language.
For example, ‘I could see that your shoulders were hunched and your head was down. You weren’t making eye contact.’
Follow up by discussing whether we enjoy those particular emotions, what role they play and how children can manage them. Talk about who they could trust if they needed help with their emotions.
3. Get outside and take some risks!
Early warning signs are the things that happen in our bodies that tell us we may not be safe.
Often we try to protect our children from risk, but controlled risk is also very important in letting them learn about their abilities and their bodies’ reactions.
Taking risks or being in danger produce a range of different body reactions.
Talk about what your child is feeling in their body. Then ask them how they assess whether they are in fact safe or not. If they are rock climbing, do they have a harness? Is there an adult supervising their climb? What might make a situation more or less safe?
All of these early warning signs come into play if another person is making us feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Congratulations, you are helping your child learn to trust their instincts!
4. Have fun with finger puppets!
Now that your children can identify a range of emotions, it’s time to connect with 5 safe adults that will listen to your child if they are feeling worried or scared.
Pick up a pack of our dedoches (finger puppets) and get to work identifying 5 adults that your child trusts to talk to about anything and everything. Ensure that the adults in the safety network know how they can best support your child with our Body Safety Superstar badges (included in the pack).
Children have fun reading the story book, identifying their safe adults, drawing their faces on the finger puppets and playing out their interactions. Each safe adult is awarded a Body Safety Superstar shield to let them know of the special place they hold in your child’s life.
Each pack comes with a story book and parent notes. The felt dedoches are ethically made in Brazil by a family owned business supporting disadvantaged women.
Body Safety dedoches can be purchased here.