Feb 21, 2014

Is My Child Being Abused?

Category: Children
Posted By: Julie

Question: Hi, I need some guidance. My 5 yr old daughter, in kindergarten, is getting in trouble at school for taking her clothes off and showing herself to classmates. When I ask her why she is doing this, her answer is that her body is beautiful and she loves her butt.

I have told her before that even if she loves her body, she can tell her friends that with her clothes on and we keep our private parts private. I've also asked her who is telling her that her body is beautiful (because we don't tell her this), and she says nobody and continues to say that she was created that way. It is at the point where the school is going to give consequences. She doesn't do this at home so not sure where to go from here-just need some advice!!

Answer: Hi Julie, thanks for your question.  I have to admit that something about your description worries me.  Its not that your daughter is comfortable with her body, which would be great if it were that simple, but something about the phrasing which does not fit with the way a 5-year-old would normally think or speak.  If you or her father had talked to her in a similar way in the normal course of being affectionate then that would explain things, but as you have explicitly said that neither of you do, I have to wonder where the phrases came from.

The behaviour in itself is pretty easily dealt with and I would suggest that you talk to your daughter about society and conventions and how these have changed throughout the many hundreds of years that we have evolved and how different societies have different ideas of what parts of your body it is okay to show.  You could perhaps talk to her about some remote African and South American societies who don’t mind nudity, but that in Europe and America we do.  You can let her know of the bygone days when women didn’t even show their ankles and how these have changed so much.  You can let her know that people get upset when we don’t conform to society and might be worried or not understand what she is doing.

However, I do think that you also need to be thoughtful and aware of where she got the idea that people wanted to see her body naked or where the particular phrases have come from.  Perhaps also talk to her on relaxed occasions, in the car or at home on the sofa, about basic ideas of privacy and protection.  The NSPCC has a web page with a lot of help and advice on this area: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/help-and-advice/for-parents/keeping-your-child-safe/the-underwear-rule/the-underwear-rule_wda97016.html

I am really sorry, I hope not to have alarmed you, it is not easy to have any clear ideas on these things without a proper assessment.  It may well be the case that you have a wonderful, confident, free-spirited young girl who wants to make her own ideas known and not be constrained by society.  In which case you just have to help her retain her ideas and also fit into the world she lives in.  But it is also worth keeping your eyes open to any more worrying signs.

I wish you the very best,

Ryan



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