For many parents, the term “protective behaviours” is a technical term they haven’t heard of until they are offered a protective behaviours parenting workshop, often at their child’s school, where they can learn strategies to protect their children from child sexual abuse. Those workshops, which may also be organised by daycare centres and local government, contain content that is extremely enlightening and valuable to parents and caregivers.
What happens at protective behaviours parent workshops? They are usually in a presentation format where you will receive factual information and learn personal safety skills that will empower your child to keep them from being abused. You will learn the skills to help your child identify situations that are unsafe and what to do about it. Picture books about protective behaviours are often recommended to help teach strategies and reinforce concepts to children.
If you work with children such as in daycare, or are a primary school teacher or social worker, you may also be on the lookout for picture books about protective behaviours to help teach safety strategies to children. Topics such as body boundaries, secrets, early warning signs, saying no, consent, personal space and personal safety network come under the term protective behaviours.
Early warning signs are the clues your body gives, to show that you are feeling threatened or in danger. Jasmine’s Butterflies is a popular book for ages 2 to 8 that teaches this through the story of Jasmine who gets lost at the zoo. As the title of Max’s Creepy Crawly Slimy Things suggests, Max likes spiders but there are times when he feels safe and unsafe. Jelly Legs uses the traffic light analogy. Green = scared but fun, yellow = careful, and red = get help. Woof Woof encourages young children to pay attention to their feelings so they can keep themselves safe.
Children need to know that if someone is doing something uncomfortable to them and they feel unsafe, they can say No! No Means No! is about an empowered girl who shows children how to use their voice. Children need to keep telling a trusted adult until they are believed. A good book that covers this is Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept – a story about a boy who experiences unsafe touch from someone he knows. Statistics show that in most cases, the predator is known to the child.
For the youngest ones there is a board book – My Body is Special and Private. It contains the real names of body parts, as does Everyone’s Got a Bottom, which is important for children to know so that there is no confusion about if a child was touched inappropriately and where. Two more titles that reinforce body boundaries are My Underpants Rule! which has a fun rhyme throughout, reinforcing key messages, and My Body Belongs to Me also teaches children that their private parts belong only to them.
Body boundaries and personal space are important topics for children to understand. They may like to give hugs and some people may not feel like having a hug. They need to have their own boundaries respected and they need to respect others’ boundaries. There is one particular time in the year where boundaries often get disrespected, and it’s at Christmas time. Many people see family members at that time of the year and it can be tough to know what to do to manage family members who expect hugs and kisses, and children who feel uncomfortable participating in that. Some people, upon arrival, manage it by trying to steer the children away and instead put the focus on themselves. Others may be able to have a quick word to the family member about the fact they are teaching the children about consent.
My Space, My Power Place teaches children through rhyme that they need to consent to hugs and cuddles. Children have choices with what happens with their body. Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect contains familiar scenarios that children can relate to and shows them how should expect to be treated by others.
Part of the grooming process is when the predator asks the child to keep secrets. This part of protective behaviours can be addressed with Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept (which also addresses inappropriate touch through story telling) and The Trouble With Secrets which has some pages directly related to protective behaviours. Have you ever thought about what are the characteristics of safe and unsafe secrets?
Another good book that incorporates many of the subjects mentioned above such as secrets, body safety, private parts and safe vs unsafe touch is My Body! What I Say Goes. There is even a page where a child can record their personal safety network on the outline of a hand.
Although it’s not a picture book, it is well worth mentioning Body Safety Education, an excellent resource and a must-have for parents. It covers many topics spoken about in protective behaviours parent workshops. The back of the book has resources you can use including conversation starter cards.
I’d like to finish with a book called 30 Days of Sex Talks (ages 3 to 7). The title of the book leads parents to think you will be talking about sex but you will not. be It is a protective behaviours book, which you can use to guide a conversation between you and your child. Written by parents and reviewed by professionals, this book includes diaglogues on important topics such as boundaries, ’my body belongs to me,’ ’how to say ‘no,’’ and predators. There are also questions and conversation starters. At any time you can add in your personal thoughts, feelings and cultural beliefs. It is highly recommended for adults to use. It is not a book for a child.
A number of books have been mentioned above and I hope that I’ve made it a little easier for you. If you have any questions, are looking for something in particular, or would like to special order bulk amounts of these books, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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