Protecting children from harm is a fundamental part of being an early childhood professional. Preventative education is also crucial and should be an integral part of any child-safe organisation.
Early childhood education consultant Nicole Talarico shares how early education professionals can help children to understand that they hold the power when it comes to their bodies and shares some great books about this topic that educators can read with children
Nicole Talarico writes:
It’s every child’s fundamental right to be able to protect themselves, but we need to address this sensitively and in the right way. We need to impart as much information as possible from a young age so that everyone becomes well informed.
Why body safety is an important part of the curriculum
If we are going to commit to an anti-bias approach to teaching and learning, we must include body safety in our curriculums. Children need to know who can be considered as trusted adults and recognise that it’s not just strangers that can cause harm to children.
Educators and families should absolutely be conversing with children to empower them to have a voice when it comes to protecting themselves, and to enable them to find the strength to disclose to safe adults if they have been violated.
Becoming a child-safe organisation
Being a child-safe organisation is so much more than having policies and practices that are understood by everyone at the service. This commitment to protecting children means the entire service culture creates an environment where “children’s safety and wellbeing is the centre of thought, values and actions” (National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, www.humanrights.gov.au). We need to include as many tools as possible to support our centre communities– there are many professionals who specialise in professional development programs.
There are organisations such as Body Safety Australia who can help facilitate the sharing of this essential component of education. These agencies can link us to trusted sources of further support and information.
We have access to many online resources via organisations such as The Commission for Children & Young People for insight and reading.
However, we must be driven to act on this knowledge and ensure we impart astuteness to children, in order to help them protect their bodies.
The power of stories
Stories are powerful mediums to prompt conversations and are therefore great tools for teaching children how to set boundaries by being clear about private parts, and knowing what secrets should not be kept.
Building an understanding of respecting others oneself enables children to take ownership and build their confidence in recognising that their body belongs to them (My Body belongs to Me from my Head to my Toes is in fact a great book for children about sexual abuse prevention).
Jayneen Sanders has gained international recognition with titles such as My Body What I Say Goes!, Some Secrets Should Never be Kept, Let’s Talk about Body Boundaries, Consent & Respect (available via www.e2epublishing.info).
Only for Me is written by Michelle Derrig and endorsed by one of Australia’s leading child protection agencies Act For Kids. It’s a rhyming book which empowers and teaches young children about protecting their body and their privacy. Only For Me is a resource of the Child Protection Unit at Sydney Children’s Hospital and can be purchased from www.onlyforme.com.au.
Early childhood professionals can access Booktopia and Amazon to purchase many other books that will aid in helping children to assertively communicate their right to bodily autonomy.
Some Parts are NOT for Sharing by Julie K Federico
My Body Belongs to Me by Jill Stavishevsky
Fred the Fox shouts NO by Tatiana Y Kisil Mathews
The Trouble with Secrets by Karen Johnsen
Child Safe Standards Series for Early Childhood Education Centre-based services