Whānau may bring up something about their child’s behaviour or something their child has said that concerns them. Or, you may notice something on a visit to the whānau that could lead you into a conversation about sexualised behaviour. In either case, it’s good to be prepared for such a talk.
The recommended reading ‘Sexualised behaviour’ contains useful guidelines about what is healthy and normal and what might be of concern.
It also contains references to articles on the web that are full of good advice.
Familiarise yourself with what is normal and healthy, so you can help the parents deal with their reactions to their tamaiti.
The key points that all references make is that it’s important for parents to stay calm. Losing the plot or ‘freaking out’ is never a good idea. Parents who are able to stay calm keep the avenues for communication open.
Of course, the conversations you have with whānau will depend on what’s happened, but following are a few conversation starters.
Pātai atu ki te whānau:
- Can we talk about what’s been going on that concerns you?
- How do you think your tamaiti is feeling about things?
- What sort of language do you use for genitals, bottoms and breasts?
- Do you have any rules in your whānau about toilet talk, nudity or touching private body parts?
- What do you think your tamaiti would do if someone did something inappropriate to them?
- What would you do?
- Would they ever have the chance to see stuff on screen that may have sexual content?
Children are natural explorers and learners. Touching their own and other children’s genitals is a normal behaviour. The recommended reading called ‘Sexualised behaviour’ is quite clear about what is normal, what may be considered a problem, and what is concerning and needing intervention.
Helping tamariki keep safe
These ideas can help whānau grow healthy attitudes towards matters like nudity or sexuality:
- It’s a good idea to use the correct names for body parts.
- Work out what is considered private in your whānau.
- Help tamariki to know what to do if someone tries to touch their private parts.
- Be aware of what tamariki see on screen. Put boundaries on unsuitable materials.
- Don’t force children to be kissed or cuddled by anyone.
- Your tamaiti will ask questions. Be ready to talk honestly with them.
- Stay calm even if you’re really worried about what’s going on.
- Know where to turn to for help.