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.