| 03.18.2018

Forgoing forced affection — Putting body ownership into action lays foundation for healthy relationships


This is the third article in a series on peaceful parenting. Read the first and second.
Children need to develop a healthy sense of body ownership. It lays the foundation for positive boundaries that can help prevent childhood sex abuse as well as risky sexual situations in adolescence. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, parents can lessen the chance of sexual abuse by instilling a healthy sense of body ownership and teaching children they have the right to say no to any unwanted physical contact — from anyone.
That last part — the “from anyone” — is where most parents don’t follow through. Statistically, a vast majority of sexual offenders are family members or people who are otherwise known to the child, according to the American Psychological Association.
Most parents will tell their children they can say no to unwanted physical contact, but they don’t actually allow their children to do it in practice. You might force your child to hug their annoying Great Aunt Margaret (“because she’s family”), or engage in a tickling session even when they are telling you “no” and trying to get away (“but he was laughing”) or force your child to wear certain clothes because they match (“she looks so cute”). In every one of those instances, the parent is sending the message that his or her child doesn’t own their own body and that, in fact, they don’t have the power to say “no.”
It’s critical to understand that as parents, we don’t own our children’s bodies — they do. It’s even more critical to put that into practice with our everyday interactions with them, by allowing children to have full control over who touches them, when they are touched and how they are touched. If we force kids to be subjected to unwanted affection from parents, family members or friends, we are taking away that control.
If we allow them to take control at a young age, then when our children find themselves in situations where they are receiving unwanted physical or sexual advances — either at a young age or during adolescence — they know they are empowered to say no and that nobody, not even someone in a position of authority or someone they love and know well, can force them to do what they are unwilling to do.
It starts with us as parents. So the next time your child doesn’t want to give Aunt Margaret a hug, don’t force him. The next time you want to give your child a kiss, ask her permission first. Start telling your children on a daily basis their body belongs to them and then start putting it into action.
Kaitlin Moroney can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

Related Posts
No comments

There are currently no comments to show.