Ivette J. Russo MS in Clinical Psychology
Sexual self-worth is the respect children have for their own bodies, gender, sexuality; and the bodies, gender and sexuality of others. In today’s modern society, the sexual abuse of children and women is at staggering proportions. One out of every four females will be victims of some form of sexual abuse somtime during their lifetime. This indicates that their is something terribly wrong in the way generations of parents have been preparing their children to handle the responsibilites of sex.
For decades the messages we have sent to children are:
- You don’t need to be concerned with your genitals. They’re private. So private we don’t touch them, talk about them or even wonder about them AND….
- If you do think about them, we certainly are not going to call them by their biological name. AND….
- If you refer to “those places” then you must know that “those places” are dirty and touching them is “bah-bah.” AND….
- If anyone is ever going to want to touch you in those dirty snake and kitty places you shouldn’t be concerned about, tell them “NO!”
Fat chance that’s going to happen! How can any child protect something they don’t own, don’t value and should think of? I want you to imagine your child as a competent, healthy adult, capable of giving and receiving love, capable of enjoying both physical touch and emotional intimacy. If you can dream this dream, you can live this reality. Here’s how:
- Teach correct body terminology. Sexual self-worth begins to develop in infancy and continues throughout life. The first step in building positive sexual self-worth is by teaching your children proper sexual body part terminology.
- Nudity, no big deal. Make a big deal out of something, and it becomes a big deal. Be casual, it becomes casual. Shame is the biggest barrier in comfortable nudity. Shame teaches something is not right about bodies, nudity or having children see their parents without clothes.
- Honesty is the best policy. When children seek information about sex age appropriate answers are the best policy. The benefit of such discussions is open and honest communication. During the discussion, share your moral views.
- Teach children about touch. There are three kinds of touch: a. Gentle touch: hugs, pats, handshakes, rubdowns, massages. b. Hurting touch: slaps, spankings, fights, kicks, bites. c. Scary touch: Touching of sexual body parts (breasts, genital, buttocks), or the threat of hurting touch (do you want a spanking).
- Respect personal space. Everyone has an area of personal space immediately surrounding their body. This is your private, restricted space that only those permitted (verbally or non-verbally) can enter. Parents and other adults who regularly violate the personal space of children by zipping an unzipped zipper, or wiping a runny nose, or grabbing a child’s hand, or wiping a dirty face without requesting permission, send a message that their body is open territory.
- Respect a child’s right to say no.