Like all little boys between the ages of two and five, my son is fascinated with his boy parts. At least, I think he’s fascinated, considering how he runs around without his pants on. Maybe he just likes to gross out his sisters.
My son’s boy-ness aside, from a very early age, we’ve tried to instil an understanding of the importance of keeping ones parts to oneself. We’ve taught them proper names—sometimes with embarrassing results at family gatherings—and told them that if anyone ever asks them to keep a secret, or touches them in a place they shouldn’t or just makes them uncomfortable (even if it’s in a way they don’t understand), they need to come tell us right away.
The sad reality is far too many kids don’t get taught these things. And many will experience some form of sexual abuse within their lifetime. Some stats show that as many as one in five have been or will be abused by the time they turn 18. I know some of them. And Lord willing, my kids will not be counted among them.
But many parents don’t know where to start. In our province (think “State,” American friends), our government is trying to meet the need with an updated sex-and-health education curriculum in public schools that, while it has some helpful elements, appears to leave children at greater risk for grooming by a sexual predator than informed about the real risks that exist. This same controversial curriculum has seen many parents—notably those of a Roman Catholic background—protesting, failing to offer an alternative beyond leaving it up to the parents.
And it’s in the hands of pro-active parents that I want to put a copy of God Made All of Me by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb.
The Holcombs, who’ve already written two exceptional but difficult to read books on sexual abuse and domestic violence, have taken a different approach with this book—they’re giving parents a tool with which to teach their kids about their private parts, consent, and what to do if they need help.
Two key points they raise in the book center around removing shame and giving control to children:
“God made every part of you and God called every part of your body good. Some parts of your body are for sharing and some parts are not for sharing.…” They write (14). And, “It’s OK to say no because we don’t always want to be touched even if it’s by someone you love. If the person doesn’t listen to you, ask for help right away” (17).
What makes these two stand out is how they counteract the lies that creep in through the words and actions of abusers. For a child to feel as though they are in control of their own body—that they have the right to say no to any sort of unwanted affection—is a wonderful gift, and something we’ve strived to instil in our own children. Our middle daughter, for example, hates kisses (unless they’re on the top of her head). So we don’t give her kisses on the cheek, and even when we do give a kiss on the top of her head, it’s only with her consent. With all of our kids, we’ve let them know that they can refuse hugs at any time, and especially because our girls are getting older (one is getting awfully close to being a tween), we’re making sure they know that mom and dad respect their privacy, just as we expect them to respect ours.
So in many ways, this book was an encouragement for me that we’re already on the right track—and although sometimes the kids will say things we don’t expect in a restaurant or at a family gathering, I’ll take a bit of embarrassment over them not having any understanding of their body any day.
And that brings me to the one concern I have, which isn’t so much with the book itself as its audience. I wonder if, because of the subject matter, and because so many parents seem either afraid to use proper names for body parts with kids, or believe it’s inappropriate for those names to be known, that they’ll overlook the book entirely. Worse, I wonder how many will assume that, because the book itself is illustrated in a wonderfully child-friendly style (Trish Mahoney does wonderful work, by the way), they’ll assume it’s a book for their kids, but not one for the family to actually read and discuss together. In fact, as my wife and I sat down to read it, she initially made this assumption, too. It was only after we started reading that it clicked. So parents just need to be aware: this is really a book for you, a teaching tool to use with your kids. Just don’t make the mistake of filing it next to The Jellybeans or Elephant and Piggie.
Regardless, I would highly encourage every parent to make sure a copy of God Made All of Me is in your home. Read it with your spouse. Work on a plan to read and discuss it with your kids. Protect their innocence by giving them wisdom.
Title: God Made All of Me
Authors: Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Publisher: New Growth Press (2015)