I Don’t Own My Child’s Body by Katia Hetter, CNN

I came across this article online.  I completely agree with the practice of giving a child power over their own body.  Often children have better instincts about people than the adults around them do.  They are more intuitive, and less easily fooled about people than adults.  As adults, we tend to suppress our instincts based upon our personal relationships with people, or our misperceived understanding of who we think people are.  As women we have been taught to “be nice” and compliant.  However, even males fall into this trap of being “too trusting” and polite.  When a child does not want to kiss or hug someone it does not always indicate an issue with the other person.  Your child just may not feel like giving someone a kiss or a hug at that particular moment; that is ok.  How many times have you felt like not kissing or hugging someone?  Kids have that right too.  When we acknowledge our children’s, grandchildren’s, foster children’s rights to protect themselves, it teaches them that as their guardians we respect their rights.  That simple act on our part may come in handy when a child most needs it to protect themselves.  JDP

 Link to the original article: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/20/living/give-grandma-hug-child/index.html


I don’t own my child’s body By Katia Hetter, CNN

June 21, 2012 — Updated 0109 GMT (0909 HKT)

Some experts advise parents not to make their children hug and kiss relatives, so children will feel in control of their bodies.


  • Katia Hetter does not tell her daughter she must hug or kiss visiting relatives
  • The Sandusky case solidified her resolve to let her child make choices about her own body
  • A personal safety expert agrees that children shouldn’t be compelled to touch anyone

Editor’s note: Katia Hetter is a travel writer for CNN. She also covers parenting and relationship issues.

(CNN) — My daughter occasionally goes on a hugging and kissing strike.

She’s 4. Her parents could get a hug or a kiss, but many people who know her cannot, at least right now. And I won’t make her.

“I would like you to hug Grandma, but I won’t make you do it,” I told her recently.

“I don’t have to?” she asked, cuddling up to me at bedtime, confirming the facts to be sure.

No, she doesn’t have to. And just to be clear, there is no passive-aggressive, conditional, manipulative nonsense behind my statement. I mean what I say. She doesn’t have to hug or kiss anyone just because I say so, not even me. I will not override my own child’s currently strong instincts to back off from touching someone who she chooses not to touch.

I figure her body is actually hers, not mine.

It doesn’t belong to her parents, preschool teacher, dance teacher or soccer coach. While she must treat people with respect, she doesn’t have to offer physical affection to please them. And the earlier she learns ownership of herself and responsibility for her body, the better for her.

The trial of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach accused of sexually abusing young boys, has only strengthened my resolve to teach my kid that it’s OK to say no to an adult who lays a hand on her — even a seemingly friendly hand.

Sandusky’s comments on child rape allegations

“When we force children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend’s feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them,” said Irene van der Zande, co-founder and executive director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, a nonprofit specializing in teaching personal safety and violence prevention. “This leads to children getting sexually abused, teen girls submitting to sexual behavior so ‘he’ll like me’ and kids enduring bullying because everyone is ‘having fun.’ ”

Protection against predators

Forcing children to touch people when they don’t want to leaves them vulnerable to sexual abusers, most of whom are people known to the children they abuse, according to Ursula Wagner, a mental health clinician with the FamilyWorks program at Heartland Alliance in Chicago. None of the child victims of sexual abuse or assault she’s counseled was attacked by strangers, she said.

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Sometimes a child picks up on something odd about your brother-in-law that no one knows. It may not be that he’s a sexual predator. He may just have no sense of boundaries or tickle too much, which can be torture for a person who doesn’t like it. Or he may be a predator.

“It sends a message that there are certain situations [when] it’s not up to them what they do with their bodies,” said Wagner. “If they are obligated to be affectionate even if they don’t want to, it makes them vulnerable to sexual abuse later on.”

Why wait until there’s trouble? Parenting coach Sharon Silver worked hard to cultivate her children’s detector. Silver says her sons easily pick up on subtle clues that suggest something isn’t quite right about particular people or situations.

In your child’s case, it may be that something’s off about Aunt Linda or the music teacher down the street.

“It’s something inside of you that tells you when something is wrong,” said Silver. Training your child to pay attention to those instincts may protect him or her in the future.

Having sex to please someone else

Would you want your daughter to have sex with her boyfriend simply to make him happy? Parents who justify ordering their children to kiss grandma might say, “It’s different.”

No, it’s not, according to author Jennifer Lehr, who blogs about her parenting style. Ordering children to kiss or hug an adult they don’t want to touch teaches them to use their body to please you or someone else in authority or, really, anyone.

“The message a child gets is that not only is another person’s emotional state their responsibility but that they must also sacrifice their own bodies to buoy another’s ego or satisfy their desire for love or affection,” said Lehr.

“Certainly no parent would wish for their teenager or adult child to feel pressure to reciprocate unwanted sexual advances, yet many teach their children at a young age that it’s their job to use their bodies to make others happy,” she said.

We can’t be rude

You might think my daughter’s shiftless parents are not teaching her manners, but that’s not true. She will shake your hand in greeting or give you a high-five when we’re saying goodbye. She knows how to set the table and place a napkin in her lap. She even has me saying a little all-inclusive blessing she brought home from school.

We’ve trained her to say please and thank you so often that she’ll say it back to me when I ask her anything. “What did you say?” I sometimes ask her when I didn’t hear her. “Please?” she’ll answer. No, I meant what did she actually say? (Maybe we’re overdoing it.)

Once a cheater, always a cheater?

She has to be polite when greeting people, whether she knows them or not. When family and friends greet us, I give her the option of “a hug or a high-five.” Since she’s been watching adults greet each other with a handshake, she sometimes offers that option. We talk about high-fives so often she’s started using them to meet anyone, which can make the start of any social occasion look like a touchdown celebration.

“When kids are really little and shy, parents can start to offer them choices for treating people with respect and care,” said van der Zande. “By age 6 or 7, even shy kids can shake somebody’s hand or wave or do something to communicate respect and care. Manners — treating people with respect and care — is different than demanding physical displays of affection.”

It creates more work

Refusing to order her to hand out hugs or kisses on demand means there’s more work to keep the relationships going and keep feelings from being hurt. Most of our extended family live far away, so it’s my job to teach my kiddo about people she doesn’t see on a daily basis.

We make sure to keep in contact with calls and Skype and presents. In advance of loved ones’ visits, which usually means an all-day plane ride, I talk a lot about how we’re related to our guests, what they mean to me and what we’re going to do when they arrive. I give them plenty of opportunity to interact with her so she can learn to trust them.

I explain to relatives who want to know why we’re letting her decide who she touches. And when she does hug them, the joy is palpable. Not from obligation or a direct order from Mom.

And while I hope I’m teaching my child how to take care of herself in the future, there are benefits to allowing her to express affection in her own way and on her own timeline. When my child cuddled up to my mother on the sofa recently, happily talking to her about stories and socks and toes and other things, my mother’s face lit up. She knew it was real.

A Professional Development Workshop For Child Care & School Personnel from Prevent Child Abuse Texas

I received this notice about a Fort Worth conference on September 13th.  In addition they are offering this program in 4 other Texas cities including one in Frisco on  August 16th.  JDP        Register Online for this Conference Now!

Fort Worth Daycare Conference

Recognizing, Reporting and Preventing Child Abuse

A Professional Development Workshop
For Child Care & School Personnel

September 13th 2014

City On A Hill
1140 Morrison Drive
Ft. Worth, TX 76120

Presented by the
Prevent Child Abuse Texas


Child care and school workers are usually the first non-family member to see children outside the home on a regular basis. This exposes them to children who are potential victims of child abuse and as such must be trained to recognize abuse and what to do if it is suspected.

Every 11 seconds a U.S. child is reported as abused or neglected. Child Abuse and Neglect has been sited by the Center for Disease Control as a priority health problem. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has called violence toward children a public health crisis. In the words of Dr. Bruce Perry, a nationally renowned researcher on child abuse, “If 20 million people were infected by a virus that caused anxiety, impulsivity, aggression, sleep problems, depression, respiratory and heart problems, vulnerability to substance abuse, antisocial and criminal behavior, retardation and school failure, we would consider it an urgent public health crisis. Yet, in the United States alone, there are more than 20 million abused, neglected and traumatized children vulnerable to these problems. Our society has yet to recognize this epidemic, let alone develop an immunization strategy.”

There were 66,897 confirmed child abuse/neglect victims in 2010. Child abuse is a cylindrical problem. Parents abused as children are more than six times as likely to abuse their children as parents who were not abused. Approximately 50% of these victims were pre-school age. Furthermore, approximately 93% of the children were abused by their own family, thereby increasing the need for training.

Your presence at this program indicates that a need exists in the area of child abuse in child cares/schools. We hope to fill that need by providing this program.

A certificate of attendance will be provided
for six hour credit to each participant.

If you receive a duplicate or cannot attend, route this information to a person you feel can benefit. Thank you.


September 13th 2014

8:00 – Registration
8:30 – Recognizing Child Abuse
  • Types of Abuse – Physical, Sexual, Emotional, & Neglect
  • Characteristics of Victims
  • Characteristics of Perpetrators
12:00 – Lunch – On your Own
1:00 – Documenting Child Abuse/Neglect
  • Record Keeping – When Do You Report
  • Protecting Yourself Against False Accusations
  • How To Report Child Abuse And The Process Of Investigation
  • Aftermath of Report
2:30 – Preventing Child Abuse
  • What You Can Do
  • Community Resources
3:30 – Evaluation & Adjournment

Pre-registration is $20 if postmarked by September 6th, 2014 with on-site registration of $25. Seating is limited. Please mail completed registration form and payment to: PCAT, 13740 Research Blvd. #R-4, Austin, TX 78750. For questions, call 512/250-8438 x 118 or email Trainings@PreventChildAbuseTexas.org


Brief Risk Assessment of Self-Harm & Suicidal Ideation by Blake Edwards

Brief Risk Assessment of Self-Harm & Suicidal Ideation

All too frequently, children and teens in the care of the child welfare system experience severe post-traumatic stress that leads to thoughts about harming or even killing themselves (i.e. “suicidal ideation”).

As a therapist and treatment director, I consider such thoughts in context of a particular history, relevant developmental issues, recent life difficulties, and considerations related to psychological functioning .

No matter a person’s age, circumstance, or level of functioning, we must provide swift and compassionate response to thoughts or acts of self-harm and suicidal ideation in ways that welcome open dialogue and seek to therapeutically address whatever is causing an increasing sense of isolation and lack of hope.

Our first response should always be to assess risk. Although not a substitute for formal clinical assessment, one of the most common and useful forms of brief risk assessment is captured in the acronym “SLAP.”

“S” is for “specificity.” If one is going to harm him/herself, how would he/she do it? If the answer to this question is specific, the risk is higher; if not, then it is lower.

“L” is for “lethality.” If a specific method is described, would such a method actually be lethal? If yes, the risk is higher; if not, then it is lower.

“A” is for “availability.” Does the person have available to them the means or opportunity to engage in the self-harming actions? If yes, the risk is higher; if not, then it is lower.

“P” is for “proximity to help.” If an attempt was made, will it likely happen in a situation in which someone could stop the attempt or provide rescue? If yes, the risk is lower; if not, then it is higher.

A very immediate, informal, and brief conversation can provide the platform for conducting risk assessment. Risk is often best assessed through a dialogue of thoughtful, indirect questioning with a caring person.

As child welfare professionals, we must be sensitive to signs and cries for help. When in doubt, we should always engage in therapeutic risk assessment, collaborate with the child’s circle of support, and document all.

Remain engaged beyond traditional visits by increasing contact through phone calls to check-in to express genuine care and concern and more frequent visits to provide empathy and encouragement. It is also necessary to provide coaching to care providers to increase understanding and promote concerned engagement.

Whenever substance addiction or severe mental illness are present, such risk assessment is insufficient as judgment is extraordinarily distorted and the level of risk already high. Always ensure treatment is underway.

Blake Griffin Edwards, MSMFT LMFT LCPAA
Clinical Director, Fostering at Metrocare, Dallas, Texas

Recommended Resource for More Detailed Clinical Direction In Risk Assessment
Granello, D.H., and Granello, P.F. (2007). Suicide assessment: Strategies for determining risk. Counselling, Psychotherapy, and Health, 3(1), 42-51, May 2007. http://www.cphjournal.com/archive_journals/V3_I1_Granello_42-51_2007.pdf



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