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Body Autonomy

Wow, this is certainly a topic many people have different views on. Let’s dive into body autonomy and why I believe it’s extremely important.

Body autonomy means you have the power to make decisions regarding what happens with your own body. As an adult, it is my fundamental right to decide everything that happens with my body. Regarding body autonomy with children, it is the same principle – giving them the respect as their own person to be in charge of and make decisions about their own body.

As a teacher, I have had some fantastic professional development on how to teach kids strategies to be safe and why it’s crucial. I’ve also been fortunate enough to be trusted by students so that they can share specific experiences with me. Things that shouldn’t happen!

I’ve also learnt much about different approaches that help to nurture and support the whole child. They gelled with me and how I viewed things. One of the most essential factors in my parenting approach is guiding and helping my child learn to listen to their body and trust in themselves. Body autonomy is part of this. This means that children should have autonomy over their bodies.

What and how would that look like? There are so many ways to help give children their autonomy. It could include them choosing what they wear, how they dress, what food goes into their bodies, and what I view as their most important: autonomy over who and how people interact with them and their bodies.

Many of these strategies are adaptable to suit the age of the child. As my child grew, it was easy to slowly increase their power over decisions and step back as they were ready.

💪 Decision Making
Including children in decisions that impact them gives them a sense of involvement, control, and power. There are different ways this need can be met. Sometimes, too many choices for children can overwhelm them, and limiting the choices helps set them up for success. It might be having different clothing options out and having them choose what they want to wear.

💪 Meal Times
Changing how I viewed and approached meal times made a huge difference. Most meals are set out family style, laid out for everyone to choose what they want on their plate. Most meals include protein, carbohydrates, fruit/vegetables and a ‘safe’ food. Meals are set out so people can build their own to their preference; e.g., pasta and sauce are served in separate dishes. I’ve learnt to trust my child to eat what their body needs. When they are eating, we model and discuss the different food options. If they aren’t keen, I work with them to see if we can add something so it tastes better. If they still decide to eat none of certain foods, that’s ok. Putting pressure on them will have the opposite effect. If they do not eat much at one meal, I know it’s for a valid reason (full, not feeling well or tired, etc). I make sure the next snack or meal is offered sooner. I also include exposure to the non-preferred foods at other meal times.

💪 Physical Touch
I have never made my child physically interact with anyone they didn’t want to. This includes kissing and hugging. I always model different ways they can say hello and give them the choice of how they prefer to do it. It’s interesting; I’ve found many adults disregard a child’s personal boundaries entirely. I have had people question me over this as a parent. I always model different ways they could say hi (e.g. wave, high five) and help them choose how they are comfortable. If they feel uncomfortable, I say it on their behalf.

💪 Correct Names of Body Parts
From an early age, toddlers have the cognitive ability to understand more than they are given credit for. Using the correct names for all body parts instead of nicknames extends their vocabulary but also assists them in communicating with you if something unthinkable happens.

All of these strategies are part of a bigger picture. They are tools used to build a trusting relationship that helps pave the pathway for children to share and communicate in the future, especially by giving them tools to help share if any abuse, especially sexual abuse, occurs.

The second book in my Joey’s Adventure series will include the theme of body autonomy as I think it’s an important topic.

I will add some links to research and articles below that I found helpful.

Attachment Nerd – Strategies to Prevent Sexual Abuse

Berry Street Education Model

Institute of Child Psychology

Keeping Safe – Child Protection Curriculum

The Holistic Psychologist

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