Teaching body safety is an important consideration for primary educators. Jayneen Sanders is a teacher, former school counsellor and author. She’s a strong public advocate for children’s safety, education and empowerment.
Through her time spent in primary schools both as a teacher and a parent, Jayneen was inspired to ask the question of her community: ‘What are we doing in schools to empower children and protect them from inappropriate touch?’
She says when she realised very little was actually being done to teach kids about body safety, she decided to use her authoring and publishing skills to write resources to help parents, caregivers and teachers to broach the subject of self-protection and to encourage children to speak up.
In 2014, Jayneen and her partner founded Educate 2 Empower, a niché publisher specialising in children’s books and resources that focus on BODY SAFETY EDUCATION, CONSENT, GENDER EQUALITY, RESPECTFUL RELATIONSHIPS and SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.
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Full Episode Transcript: Teaching Body Safety, Consent and Boundaries
Bron: Welcome, Jayneen, to For the Love of Teaching. It is lovely to have you!
Jayneen: Thank you so much for having me.
At What Age Should We Teach Kids About Body Safety?
Bron: So some of my favourite books of yours are all about body boundaries, consent and respect. What age should we start having these conversations with our own children, as well as our students in the classroom about these issues?
Jayneen: Well, with our own children, Bronwyn, I think we really need to start from the beginning. So at birth, really, we can start using the correct terms for the body parts, the correct terms for the genitals because you know, this is really important. We know that.. later on, we’ll talk about this, but if a child was ever touched in appropriately, it is really important that they know the correct names for their private parts. So you can start right at the beginning and you can also say, “Okay, you know, I’m going to do this. Now I’m going to change your nappy. This is why I’m doing it.”
And just explaining things to them and talking to them and treating them like they will, they have a voice. And of course, when they’re in school, it’s also very important that we begin at a young age, like preschool, really. We start having these conversations with them about body boundaries and they, they have their body is their body. And no one has the, right to come inside their body boundaries. So yeah, we can start from a very young age. And we know from statistics that kids from the age three to eight, are most at risk of of sexual abuse actually. So the younger, we start empowering them, the better.
Bron: Right. Yes, absolutely agree. It’s so important. I think too many parents and teachers it’s become a very crucial part of our social and personal learning that we have with our students and in the classroom. One of my colleagues who I have on the podcast regularly, Joe Dombroski, he had a student who was calling her anatomy, her cookie. What do you say to teachers who students, parents might have a different idea on this to themselves? What’s the best way to approach that? Where a family may not align with your teaching practice?
How Can Teachers and Parents Promote Body Safety Together?
Jayneen: Okay. Well, usually (I have a Teacher’s Resource Kit), but usually I would start with that family and talking to them that we teach kids road safety. We teach kids water safety, you know, this is really important, but also body safety is very important because, you know, we know that one in five girls, one and eight boys will be sexually abused before they’re 18. So just tell them a little bit about the statistics there and then say, and you know, if a child is touched in appropriately and, and it could happen, hopefully it never will, but it could if they said to their teacher or to you as a parent, “Oh you know, uncle such and such touched my cookie”, you wouldn’t take any notice whatsoever. Like it wouldn’t be a red flag to you at all, but if your child came up and said, “Look, you know, such and such touched my vagina”, then this is going to be a huge red flag and actions going to be taken.
And that child is going to be listened to, they’re giving a message. It’s not going to be dismissed. It’s going to be taken noticed.
And I think that is just so key. And it’s it’s really important that these kids have this language. And also if that person was ever taken to a court of law, if their child couldn’t say exactly where they were touched with the correct name for their genitals, then it just wouldn’t hold up in a court of law. So I think we need to obviously educate our kids and body safety and teachers and parents, and doing a good job with that. And it’s fantastic, but we also need to educate the community to believe a child. And to understand that it does go on that there are red flags to look out for.
There are groomers out there you know, 98% of kids know their perpetrator. So they’re in our homes and they’re in our family. So it is our responsibility to educate ourselves really before we even begin the age appropriate skills in body safety. So you, you know, you kind of just got to bring them on board through providing information for them about what we know about how you know about body safety and how powerful teaching it to children can be.
The Importance of Teaching Kids Correct Anatomical Terms for Body Safety
Bron: Yes. Right. A hundred percent agree. And I think that luckily or fortunately, this generation is much more equipped and comfortable and just used to using the correct anatomical terms for body parts, ourselves as adults and also for our children. And hopefully that those kind of nicknames or whatever you would call them are a thing of the past. But yeah, it is so important. I think you are. So thank you for pointing out why that’s important because we often know that we’re supposed to do that, but the whole, the reason for that, and even the legal system requiring that information is very, very important to know about. So yeah, I really appreciate that.
Books and Resources for Teaching Body Safety
And so Jayneen, you have written these amazing books, so many books, but the, the ones that I’m particularly interested in because I’m an early years teacher and I think a lot of early years teachers will be, will be the same that it is that age group under eight years old, that’s exactly the, the, the year levels and children ages that we’re teaching. And so when you hear those statistics and I’ve read them because you publish them in your books as well, they’re very evidence-based and research-based it’s alarming and it is something that teachers and parents have to work as partners and community have to work as partners in. And you just mentioned your teacher resource kit. Is that available on your website?
Jayneen: Yeah, absolutely. So we, I, haven’t not, you know, because I’m a teacher myself, I always come from that perspective. So I write these, these books because I have something to say and I’m not a survivor of sexual abuse myself, but my neighbour was, and she married an abuser who also abused her, her son and her daughter for as young as they can remember. And she always said to me, I know whatever we do, we need to educate kids before they’re in that perpetrator’s web, because once they’re in that web, it’s very complex. You know, there are things like keeping secrets. There are threats. There is, you know, you do this because you love me, et cetera. But the prevention education is really easy and really age appropriate. So from that I decided that I, I want to teachers to own this as well.
Like I, I know that there are situations that come into the classroom where, you know, somebody peeked over the door at the toilet door to look at else or try to touch certain private parts. And I think if we’re the ones implementing body safety education, and we are the ones who can use that in our day to day teaching, we can bring these issues up and we can talk about them and we can make sure that they’re addressed.
So therefore from that, and from the books I wrote, I decided to make a Teacher Resource Kit. So there’s one for preschool and there’s one for primary, and I made it so that it’s very affordable because so many teachers assigned to me like, “Oh, do I get a provider in it’s so expensive? You know, our school can’t afford it”, and fair enough. But also by having a Teacher Resource Kit, I have PowerPoints in there too for our parent information night and also for one teacher to maybe in service the whole school in how to teach body safety.
So I thought this is really affordable and teachers can own this. They can, they can make a difference in their school. They can make a difference in their classrooms. So I kind of wanted everybody to sort of come on board and that’s why I provide that Teacher Resource Kit. And in fact, just recently I’m so thrilled, a local council has just taken 80 of those preschool kids for all their kindergartens. So all their four year olds will be going through these body safety lessons. And, yeah.
Bron: Congratulations. That is great. Thank you.
Incidental and Explicit Education on Body Safety
You’re spot on in that you have been a primary teacher before, and you understand those incidental moments that come up that are talking points and starting points, but also having done this, this research in this area, giving teaches the vocab and the planning to be able to go forward. Because I think that in a very crowded curriculum, teachers find it difficult to research for themselves and to make these lessons happen in a formalised, structured way, as well as the incidental one-offs that happened during the school day.
Jayneen: It, it, it, you know, some people are quite uncomfortable with this and I can understand that. And we also have some people who will actually have their own trauma from their childhood, so it can be quite triggering. So I want them to be comfortable. And so I want the lessons to be you know, really able to be implemented easily. So, you know, there are 10 lessons and that’s, you know, two lessons over five weeks and, you know, sort of job done, plus bringing it up throughout the year when incidences do occur. So I really wanted to put myself in everybody’s shoes as I have been the teacher and make it as easy as possible and as comfortable as possible to implement body safety education.
Bron: Perfect. That is such a great resource. Now you also are, we’ve talked about the teacher resources and there’s also a Parent’s Guide to Protecting from Sexual Abuse, which is very excellent as well. And I’ve taken that one home for just a raid I’m with templates and things that you can go through with your students, and also to just equip yourself for conversations that will arise as a parent.
Let’s talk about your books that are student-facing because they are so beautiful. And so well-written absolutely gorgeous books. Now you’ve done some nonfiction and some fiction books on these topics. So there’s a beautiful fiction one called Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept. And it’s a story about this cute little knight who is unfortunately sexually abused by his carer in the castle that he’s living in with his mom. And then you’ve also got books like My Body, What I Say Goes, and I love that title because it’s so so empowering for students to have that one phrase that they can recall whenever they feel uncomfortable.
And then there’s another one called Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect. And I think these are just amazing books. These are just a few of them. There’s so many of them. So if you’re interested go to Jayneen’s website, I will pop the link in the show notes. But I, I just wanted to know when you were creating these texts I’d imagine it was over a period of time, but what impact did you hope that they would have on children at school and also in families at home?
What Inspired Jayneen to Write About Body Safety?
Jayneen: Okay. So really again, with the book Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept. So I was on my children’s school council and I had decided after talking to my neighbour that, you know, we should be doing somebody’s safety education in our school. And so it kind of, this was about 10 years ago and everyone was really uncomfortable. So they kept putting me to the bottom of the agenda.
So, because I also write children’s, readers under another name, Jay Dale, actually. But I decided that I could, you know, if I use my voice as a writer, then someone would take notice. So I wrote Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept as a fiction. And I made it so that there is nothing graphic in there. Even though the little boy is abused, there is never an image of that or anything, it’s just very subtle.
Secrets vs Surprises: The Basics of Body Safety
So in fact, that book has become it’s gone into a number of kits in New South Wales to go out with social workers, to actually get kids who they suspect, maybe be sexually abused just to get them to disclose. So it’s, it’s a fairy tale. It’s written, it’s timeless. It’s always going to be around. And that will in particular was how I wanted to get the message across that, you know, secret should not be kept because the secrets are the currency of a perpetrator. I mean, that’s what they use to keep children quiet. And in some of my work, you’ll notice that I say, we talk about surprises rather than secrets, because surprises will always be told, but secrets will be kept.
Bron: I often find it very difficult to explain to my own children because they’re black and white about being, having secrets or telling lies. And so I think one of the examples you gave in your book is about if you’re planning a surprise party for your grandpa or grandma, that’s a surprise. You can not tell that one, cause it’s a surprise, cause it’s a happy thing, but that is something kids really struggle with when they’re trying to come to terms with right and wrong and morals and obviously perpetrators who are manipulative know that. And as you say, it’s currency, it’s how they operate. So yes, the secrets and surprises thing is just absolute gold. I think for families and teachers.
Jayneen: And it, it is because you know that they will, you know, perpetrators, I think people don’t really understand just how manipulative they can be. So they might even sort of say, “Oh, you know, here’s some sweets, don’t tell your mum it’s our secret”. And that is just testing to say whether the child can keep a secret, because if a child knows that you don’t keep secrets in our family, then they’re going to tell. And you know, once it’s been told and that perpetrator is, you know, they’re in a lot of trouble.
So the difference between secrets and surprises, it’s very important. So that, that particular book was key for me. And it’s still probably the book that I hold dearest, but the other books, which are more nonfiction is my way of saying, well, here are your skills. Okay. So in My Body, What I Say Goes, it has the actual kind of, sort of seven or eight skills that you need to know in order to keep your body safe.
So it’s, it’s much more as you know, your daughter would like black and white, it’s much more black and white. You know, we talk about safe feelings. We talk about, I wouldn’t say feelings. We talk about our early warning signs, all the practical skills. And then the other one on consent comes from the other side. So we tell children like, they’re empowered to say, no, stop. Don’t come inside my body boundary. But what about the kids who don’t respect that? What about the kids who are always pushing other people off the slide or just thinking they can grab a little girl’s hand and run off with her?
You know, we need to take some, Hey, everybody has body boundaries and you need to respect them as well! Coming from, you know, I guess more like a bordering on a bully sort of side, just pushing people aside. So yeah, I, I kind of do the books because I need to, I’ve got something to say and I work out the best way to get that message across to children.
Bron: Yeah. Fantastic. And you’ve done such a good job of that. I really that’s great how you’ve explained that, that it’s for all children, because as we know in a class it’s such a combination of personality types and prior knowledge and understandings that they bring into your classroom. And sometimes, yeah, it especially little ones, they just need that explicit teaching about respecting other people’s boundaries.
But also from the other side, speaking up when those boundaries are being broken. So now all of your books include support materials in the end notes such as suggested questions and discussion points for adults to use with kids. And that’s an, an awesome support for teachers as well as parents.
Prompts and Questions to Support Teaching About Body Safety
Why Jayneen is it so crucial to support adults? We talked about this a little bit before with the Teaching Resource Kit, but for teachers and parents, why did you include those, those notes, I guess just for additional support.
Jayneen: Okay. So I think that we all need that scaffolding and I’m always coming from a teaching perspective. So, you know, whenever we read a book to children, we just don’t read a book. We need to unpack the messages, the key messages that are in there and parents, you know, as teachers, we just do that. Like we start asking questions and inferential questions and literal questions. But with, with parents, it’s a little harder for them to unpack what the key messages are.
So by providing them with the questions and the discussion points this will help them scaffold and have open up all sorts of wonderful conversations with their kids that they didn’t know were possible. And in fact, some books, I do put some questions for the child inside the book, so to bring them into the story. So it might be, you know, I have one book on resilience, so it might be, you know, what is something that’s being really hard for you?
So you can stop the reading. You can take a moment and they can have a voice and talk about something that’s happened to them. So I’m always very conscious of unpacking the message. And in doing that, I also provide lesson plans for every book and currently right now, in Covid, those lesson plans are all free for teachers. So yeah, it’s really good. So there’s for every book, there is at least three lesson plans.
Well, My Body, What I Say Goes, if a school…l with the Teacher’s Resource Kit, it’s like a whole school commitment, we’re going to do this, but sometimes not all schools want to commute. So the teacher might just take the book, My Body, What I Say Goes, which I think is the absolute key book. I think that that book needs to be read to every child and I provide seven lesson plans to unpack with that talk. So, you know, as we know, we don’t just read a book, we introduce it, we read sections of it. We unpack it. We reinforce the message. So always providing lesson plans for teachers and discussion questions to help the parents as well.
Bron: That’s brilliant. That is so great. So teachers jump onto Jayneen’s website at the end of the episode, I will tell everyone where to find you for, for your social media and your website as well. And I’ll pop them in the show notes so that you can go and download. Some of those are lesson plans that Jayneen has kindly made free at the moment. But so what sort of feedback have you been receiving from teachers and parents about your books and resources?
Challenges in Teaching About Body Safety
Jayneen: So I’ve had fantastic feedback. The teachers really, really loved the Teacher Resource Kit. Some of them, you know, feel that like, “Oh, I’m not sure if it is, I don’t know if I can do this”, but I would say to you to teach us that not every child is going to get these messages. So if you could just put your fear of this topic aside and think about the child, because we know from The Royal Commission, how damaging sexual abuse of children can be. And some people aren’t even here because of how damaging it is, and they’ve kept secrets for all their lives. So let’s just think about the children in front of us and say, you know, wow, we can give them this empowering information. And it’s like wearing a seatbelt. You know, you don’t, you hope you never have to use it when you’re strap your children in, but just in case it’s there.
And it’s the same with body safety education. There’s nothing graphic. There’s nothing scary, it’s age appropriate. And yet just it’s there just in case. So I think just really putting your own fear aside and coming on board with us all and helping, helping the kids, in the classroom.
Bron: Yeah. Fantastic. All that is so great. Jayneen, and I think that on that note, we might wrap up because that’s amazing important information for teachers to know and such a great point. You make there, it’s not about us. And we know that educators, no, it’s not. It’s never about us. It’s about the students and their wellbeing. So great reminder there really appreciate that. And thank you so much for joining me on for the love of teaching, but also for creating this amazing you know, raft of resources and books for students and teachers and parents, so paramount and important. So thanks Jayneen!
Thank you so much for having me. And thank you. Thanks for listening. And you can follow Jayneen on her social media channels to access important news developments and resources. She’s on Facebook as Jayneen Sanders author, and also at Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept on Facebook. And also you can find her on Twitter as Jayneen Sanders and on Instagram, Jayneen Sanders, or Educate2Empower, have a great day, teachers.