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Teaching kids ‘tricky topics’ can be easy if you have the right tools. And the right tool is often a children’s book! Kids are visual learners, so a story book is ideal to broach tricky topics and help encourage ongoing and open conversations.

Whenever I have been teaching (or parenting for that matter) and I want to unpack and discuss a difficult topic, such as bullying, kids touching each other or crossing body boundaries, I always wish I had the ‘perfect’ book with me, complete with engaging illustrations and simple language that kids can understand.

I remember teaching a class of 8 and 9-year-olds and being told by the girls in the class that they didn’t want to go to camp because the boys would tease them and spy on them, and maybe even look at them in the toilets. I wished I had a book on respecting body boundaries and consent, it was in that moment that I decided to write, ‘Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent And Respect’. Children’s books are the perfect medium to unpack difficult topics. All my books have Discussion Questions for parents, teachers, and carers to help them scaffold the learning.

All parents worry about tackling difficult topics. My advice is to do your homework. Find books and resources that help explain the topic before you broach it, so you feel more confident about the upcoming conversation. If you are worried about discussing a certain topic, your kids will be too. So, relax. You’ve got this! Tricky conversations don’t need to be so tricky if we begin talking about consent and body boundaries from a very early age.

As soon as your child is born, talk to them about what you are doing with their body, e.g. ‘I am just putting your socks on now so your feet will be warm.’ Call genitals by their correct names from day one, so this is no big deal when later in their lives you talk about puberty and sex. It’s also important in case they are ever touched inappropriately. Topics I suggest you cover are body safety, consent, body boundaries, respect, diversity, gender equality, racial equality, empathy, talking about feelings, and diversity in families.

Top Tips for Having Little Big Chats with Your Kids

• Start early
• Have ongoing conversations and revisit topics regularly
• Answer questions honestly
• Let your child know they can ask you anything
• Express that you don’t have all the answers, but you will find out more
• Encourage curiosity
• Develop your child’s vocabulary around feelings, and encourage them to verbalise theirs
• Ensure family and adults respect your child’s body boundary and agency
• Listen with empathy and patience to questions and concerns

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  • Jayneen Sanders

    Jayneen Sanders (aka Jay Dale) is an experienced author, publisher, primary school teacher, mother of three and an active advocate for body safety, gender equality and respectful relationship education being taught both in homes and in schools. She is also lead author of Engage Literacy published by Capstone, and has had published over 130 stories for children. Jayneen feels passionately that we can do so much more to keep our children safe by teaching them age-appropriate and empowering prevention education.