Book Review: “My Body Is Special”

By Sally Berenzweig and Cherie Benjoseph

As parents, our single goal in raising children is to deliver them into adulthood happy, healthy, and thriving. We want to think that our children will bounce through the years of their childhood and adolescence unscathed from harm and hurt.

But the numbers tell us something different: 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Over 90% of these children will know their abuser, often times someone they love and trust. The abuser can also be a peer or playmate, this is not exclusive to adults.
 
These numbers are alarming, but I don’t believe in parenting from a place of fear. Parents need effective, appropriate methods to teach their sons and daughters about how to protect themselves, talk to safe adults, and use their voice when instinct tells them something is wrong.
 
When it comes to sexual abuse, silence is never the option.
 
Speaking to your kids and teaching them to speak up is the single best way to keeping our kids safe and empowered.
 
When Sally and Cherie, authors of “My Body is Special” contacted me about reviewing their book, I was going through some Mommy Drama about taking my just-turned five year old girl to her first drop off birthday party at a classmate’s house. There was going to be a bounce house, and the children were invited to be dropped off for a few hours a birthday party fun. We have known the family for about a year or so through school, but we aren’t close with them and when I sat down and thought about it, we don’t really know them. I liked them, but I didn’t know them. There would be older siblings and extended family of the birthday girl at her party, none of whom I knew. I began to worry, so I decided to talk with Amelia a few days before the party to see if she was ready for this. We have taught her from the age of two about her body, her body parts, and personal safety. Time to see if it was paying off.
 
I started asking about who she thought would be at the party, if there would be people she didn’t know at the party, and how we use good manners. Then I asked who she would ask for help if she needed assistance in the potty, setting up some ideas of who were the Safe Adults at the party…and she launched into what we call her Vagina Monologues….a forceful recitation (with one hand on hip, the other in the air as her dark little head bobs side to side) as she states her list of who can and cannot touch her privates, she doesn’t touch or look at other people’s privates, and grown ups don’t tell kids secrets or ask for directions. “And if someone touches my boobie spots, I will call the newspaper to report them,” she told me. Okay then. Little mamacita was ready.
 
We cannot shelter our children, but we can empower them. Parents need to be having these conversations. Parents need to be teaching their children what Safe and Unsafe Touches are, what their Safety Voice is, that the child is in charge of their body, and to speak to a Safe Adult when something doesn’t feel right.
 
“My Body is Special” is such a great tool – for parents and kids. The book is something I will now use with both of my kiddos as I teach them about safety, listening to their tummy voices (instincts), and speaking up when they don’t feel right. I actually recommend that you read the book backwards — start with the Parent Guide, and work through any issues or hangups you may have. (For example, we need to be able to say penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks just as easily as we say “elbow”. Let’s go the whole nine yards and throw in testicles and vulva.) Then read through the illustrated story with your children, having age appropriate discussions. Once you do it, I promise, it isn’t that tough and it comes as easily as “Look both ways before you cross the street”. We say that to our kids all the time. But come to think of it, how many kids are hit by cars each year? Remember the stats above, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before they become a legal adult. 1 in 3, 1 in 5. Start talking to your kids.
 
I really recommend you get this book to use with your family, and on a quiet evening or weekend, work through the KidSafe Foundation website, there is so much good info in there I don’t even think I can link it all.
 
Conversation, intuition, body empowerment. Let’s raise thriving children who never know the world of sexual abuse.
 
 And parents, when you feel something isn’t right, when something or someone just feels off, that thing you just can’t place….THAT IS YOUR GUT TALKING TO YOU. LISTEN TO IT.
 
For answering the phone and staying home alone, Click here.
For tips on public and shopping safety, Click here.
For Internet safety guidelines, Click here
For tips on finding the right babysitter, Click here.
What’s the “What If?” Game? Find out – here.
  

Comments

  1. I love books like this. Have you seen The Safe Side DVD? {I’m sure you have.} I love it and we have watched it several times. I’ve also been going over this with my daughter since she was very young and I talk with my son about it too. I know that at some point I have to let her out of the house to be with friends. At that time I have to trust what I’ve taught her.

  2. Child sex play, including mutual touching, is a normal, important part of growing up.
    Rather than helping children love their bodies, teaching them it is wrong to touch or look at other people’s “private parts” or allow others to touch or look at theirs actually makes them feel bodies, theirs and others, are dirty.
    Keeping children safe should not mean killing their sexuality or their bodily pleasures.

    • Judith –
      I hear what you are saying, and I respect your statment and your expertise. At the same time I think you are changing the context of the message from the book and post. This book does not teach children that any part of their body is “dirty”, nor does it kill sexuality. Sexuality is a beautiful, wonderful thing and when developed naturally, allows our children to thrive as human beings. We want that. Sexual abuse, however, does not. Empowering our children to have a respect for their bodies and developing a voice when their intuition tells them something is amiss is all part of healthy sexuality.

      As a mom, I am not comfortable with the idea of mutual touching during child sex play, however normal you say it is. My gut check tells me otherwise. Does it and can it happen? You bet. Now a days, with intense hypersexualization of childhood, is it more than the simple “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours?” You bet. And that’s why I want to give my daughter and my son a framework and point of reference to work from should this come up when they are at play. It is not about shaming or embarassing our children, not at all. It is about teaching our children a respect for their bodies and establishing healthy boundaries for themselves.

  3. Sorry, just saw the link to the book you suggested!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Please, please get comfortable talking to your kids about their bodies, private parts, and sex. You might need to get honest with yourself and move past some issues you may have in order to have […]

  2. […] Your body belongs to you, no one may touch it in a way that upsets you or hurts you. You own the right to demand people […]

  3. […] Please, please get comfortable talking to your kids about their bodies, private parts, and sex. You might need to get honest with yourself and move past some issues you may have in order to have […]

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