Ten Body Safety Rules you can teach your child.

With the increasing knowledge of the extent of child sexual abuse, many parents wonder how they can safeguard their children. The best way to protect your child is to educate them about their bodies and their right to say no. An important follow on from that is that your child learns that everyone’s body should be respected and touching without permission is not acceptable. Your child also learns that No means no. This is important not just in childhood but through the teenage years and into adulthood. Boys learn to respect the bodies of girls and also learn to seek permission. Girls learn they have the right to say no. Children also learn self respect and respect for others.

  1. The first thing to teach your child is the correct names for body parts. This is important for children to be able to feel comfortable about their bodies and also respect their bodies. This allows your child to expect others to respect his or her body as well.
  2. Teach your child the parts of their body that are private body parts. One suggested way is to explain that what is under their swimmers as well as their mouth is private.
  3. Instruct your child that no one can touch their private body parts. Reinforce to them that their body belongs to them.
  4. Explain to your child that they must never touch another person’s private body parts even if an older child or adult asks them to.
  5. Discuss with your child feelings they may have that may tell them they are uncomfortable or frightened in a situation (early warning signs). These may be sweaty palms, a racing heart, feeling sick and many more. Instruct them to always act on these feelings.
  6. Teach your child to shout “STOP” or “NO” with their hand held out if anyone tries to touch them on their private body parts or in any way they do not like.
  7. Teach your child to tell a trusted adult straightaway if they are touched on their private body parts, in any way they do not like or their early warning signs are activated.
    Sadly in this world children are often let down by the very people who are supposed to protect them. This is often referred to as the second trauma of sexual abuse. There is the trauma of the sexual abuse, then the trauma of the trusted adult who fails to support the child. Always take what your child tells you seriously. Do this even though it may be uncomfortable for you to hear it.
  8. Teach your child to not give up if a trusted adult fails to support them or acts as though they do not believe them. Teach your child to keep telling people until someone listens and acts.
  9. Explain to your child that keeping secrets that make them feel uncomfortable or bad is wrong. Teach them to only keep happy surprises. If it makes them feel uncomfortable or bad then they need to tell someone. Advise them they will not get into trouble for telling someone.
  10. Encourage your child to always be strong, to be brave and to ALWAYS speak out.

How to communicate effectively in those important conversations. (Critical Thinking and Communication)

Critical thinking is often seen as something you need to pursue further education, but it is also important in navigating your way through life.
Consider these thinking behaviours that are used to communicate with others.

It is important when communicating with others that you are able to communicate your thoughts and wants clearly. You may need to add more detail to your words to assist the other person to understand. You may need to provide an example of what you want. People will not always automatically what you want and you need to pay attention to making sure the other person understands.

It is important that what you say is accurate. It is more helpful to others if you give accurate information. If the information you give is inaccurate and they know that, you are less likely to achieve what you want from the communication.

Being precise is a good way to ensure the other person understands exactly what you want. Make sure you give enough detail to aid understanding.

Is what you are saying relevant to what you want? Or does it make expressing what you want to unclear so the other person is struggling to understand what you are actually saying or asking?

Depth involves thinking through the way you are going to say something to ensure the other person is able to understand. This allows you to explain any misunderstanding should it arise.

Breadth is about you considering the other person’s point of view and needs. In this way you will be able to acknowledge any difficulties they may encounter in relation to what you are communicating and will also increase your chance of achieving an outcome you are happy with.

As you prepare to say something, consider whether it makes sense. It is hard to understand another person if their words do not make sense. Using too many words or trying to fit too many concepts into what you are saying make understanding of your communication difficult. It is better to present one idea at a time and work through your ideas logically.

It is important to appear fair in what you say. Show through the way you put the words together that you have considered the other person’s needs. Ensure you have considered whether your request is fair and show that through the way you acknowledge the other person’s needs. Indicate a willingness to find a solution that will suit both of you.

Make sure you focus your words on the most important part of the communication. This allows the other person to understand its importance. Too many ideas and the wrong focus can lead to the other person not understanding what you are saying and thinking the focus is something else. So think about what you are going to say and ask yourself which words are the most important and what is the most important thing you want the other person to know.

Eight positive ways to deal with critical people

Nothing is more disheartening than a person who criticises. This is especially so with the person who is constantly finding fault with what you are doing. So how can you deal with them?

  1. Don’t take it personally.
    One way to deal with them is to see what they are saying as being about them, not you. A critical person finds fault with others because they don’t feel good about themself. By turning what they are saying around and seeing it as them wanting to spread some misery because they feel unhappy, it can help you not to be deflated by the negative things they are saying.
  2. Look at the comments objectively.
    Another way to deal with them is to look more objectively at what the person is saying. They may have some valid feedback to give, they are just saying it in a negative way. If you look at what they are saying, with all the emotive language removed, the comments may not be so bad.
  3. See it as honest feedback.
    Another way to deal with the comments objectively is to see them as honest feedback. You can choose to accept or reject the feedback once you have considered it. Another person’s feedback is not always accurate.
  4. Give attention to your inner discomfort.
    Stop to consider the discomfort you are feeling. What is that discomfort about? Do you feel uncomfortable being judged? Is this person undermining your attempt to become confident with what you are doing? Are you wanting the approval of others? Once you understand what the discomfort is about you can then choose an inner response to it.
  5. Don’t ask for opinions if you are not prepared to accept a negative answer.
    Sometimes the critical person gives their critical comments without you requesting them. In that case this one doesn’t apply. Sometimes, however, the critical comment is given after you have asked for feedback on how you are going. In that case, avoid asking a known critical person for a comment. If you are not sure how the person will respond, it is better not to ask. Instead ask someone you know will give helpful, constructive feedback.
  6. Ignore the criticism.
    While we are on the subject of feedback, one thing you can do is choose to see the comment as feedback. Feedback is based on another person’s observations and their thoughts around what they have observed. The other person’s feedback is their opinion, not fact. You can choose whether you accept their opinion, or part of it, as valid or whether you reject their opinion as not valid. If you refuse to accept the opinion, it does not belong to you.
  7. Show the person kindness.
    Often critical people need kindness from other people. It is a bit like the principle of the child who is not getting attention from its parent when it needs it, so it does something naughty to get the attention it needs. Often critical people are just looking for attention, to be noticed. Just as the child considers any attention, even bad attention, is worth it, the critical person sees the attention their criticism attracts, even if it is negative, as worth it. Being kind to them and thanking them for their opinion (while internally rejecting it) will give them the kindness they seek and may put them off being negative to you again. Even if that approach does not stop their critical comments in future, you will feel better for being kind to another person rather than being angry. So do it for you and your sense of well being.
  8. Avoid them.
    If all else fails, and they are really getting you down, then wherever possible avoid them.

Seeing a counsellor can also help. In a counselling session you can explore those vulnerable parts of you that the criticism hurts and learn strategies to deal effectively with the criticism. You can learn strategies to set firm boundaries around critical people as well. Discussing your experience with a counsellor, who is objective, can also help you to see the person’s behaviour more objectively. Being able to share your experience with a counsellor who will listen without judgement is also extremely helpful.

Are you feeling or have you ever felt suicidal?

One of the hardest times in life is when you find yourself in a place where there is so much pain it is hard to go on. That pain can be physical in origin, or it may be emotional in origin. Whatever the source of the pain it is there. And you may find yourself in a place where it hurts so much you don’t know how to go on.

It is hard when you feel life is too hard to go on with. You may reach out for help. If you are lucky the person you reach out to will listen to you and support you. Sadly that is often not the case. Jodie came to see me because, when her family in financial difficulties she had lost her job. She felt she had let her family down and should be contributing to the family rather than being a drain on them. She blamed herself for her job loss. She had reached out to her doctor after she found herself spending her days lying in bed thinking she was useless and only cost her husband and children money. She believed the terrible financial situation her family was in was her fault. She concluded she was better off dead. One part of her felt she should try to get help so she went to her doctor. She told the doctor she was feeling life was too hard and she wanted to kill herself. The doctor put her off by telling her she would discuss this later and then insisted she have blood tests to check her cholesterol levels and check for diabetes. The doctor’s reasoning was that she hadn’t had these tests for a few years and she was due for more. The doctor was not interested in even discussing her suicidal feelings. Two more doctor visits and the doctor never mentioned her suicidal feelings, even when she tried to talk about them to her. Fortunately she came to see me and was able to talk and be heard. Today she is feeling much better and does not spend her days crying and wanting to kill herself.

What was she able to do through counselling? What helped her is listed below.

1. She realised her pain was valid. She came to counselling believing she had no right to be hurting at the terrible turn her life had taken. She came believing the horrible things happening to her family were her fault. She realised first that the pain she was feeling was genuine and very real. It was no surprise she was hurting after losing her job and being so worried about how the family would cope with one less income. When she realised her pain was valid, a lot of the stress she experienced about feeling that way went. She realised it was okay to feel devastated at losing her job. She understood it was okay to hurt and worry about her family finances. She was able to see that it was not her fault. Once she understood these things, it was easier to deal with the pain and talk about it to her family.

2. She realised she was not weak for thinking her family would be better off if she killed herself. What was happening for her was that she was overwhelmed with things in her life and was struggling to cope. She was experiencing a situation that would cause other people great stress. Her reaction was understandable. That helped her feel less alone and less ashamed of talking about her feelings.

3. She realised that she had a right to ask for help and receive it. Feeling suicidal did not mean she had lost the right to get help. Someone in that level of physical pain would not feel they had no right to ask for help. She came to learn that those suffering emotional pain had the right to ask for help as well. Jodie also realised that she felt ashamed at needing to visit a counsellor. She was able to work through those feelings of shame. She learned that asking for help was a strong, healthy thing to do.

4. Jodie had struggled with friends who dismissed her feelings. One told her she was attention seeking. Jodie realised she deserved support from her friends. She made the decision to distance herself from the unsupportive friends and not feel guilty at doing so. She deserved to be supported. A true friend will offer support and love, not lack of support or judgement. She learned that she had two lovely caring friends who were very supportive for her during her healing and continue to support her today. She realised she had a right to expect understanding, support and validation of her pain.

5. Jodie learned she did not need to feel guilty at wanting to kill herself. She realised she had internalised the belief that suicide was a crime and wrong. This had held her back from asking for help initially. Then it had caused her to not want to tell anyone she was seeing a counsellor. After a number of sessions she was able to challenge that belief. With counselling she was able to challenge also the belief she was a burden on her family.

6. Finally Jodie was able to work through the pain she had been feeling and come to the realisation that the pain was temporary. One day she found herself feeling moments of happiness. Another day she found herself coming up with a plan of something to do to help herself and her family. She came to the realisation that she was finding joy in her life again. She felt that was an important learning. She determined that if she felt this much pain again she could know that the pain was only temporary and that she needed to seek help to assist her to work through the pain.