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Infants & Toddlers

Start from infancy. This may seem extreme but these concepts are just as important as a baby getting adequate nutrition to build a optimal foundation of physical and mental health.

 


1. Cultivate a Healthy View of the Body

2. Set & Practice Boundaries
Main Goals:

 
Cultivate a Healthy View of Sex
Use Proper Terms

Using proper terms from day 1 with your brand new baby will mainly help the parent become comfortable using the correct terminology.  The infant can feel the ease and comfort with which their parent uses all words. Since infants don't really understand language yet they rely on the mood or feelings of those around them to communicate.  By being comfortable with using proper terms parents are communicating with their infant that these parts of their body are good.

 

As the child grows they obviously start to understand language and are learning what things are called.  This is an excellent time to teach them what the proper name is for their body parts.   

Private Time

Just like using proper terms before the child is old enough to really understand everything you can incorporate private time into your routine.  At the beginning this is for the parent to get used to private times so when they start teaching their toddlers with words they are also teaching with actions. When you take a child to a private place to change a diaper you are preparing a habit of going to the bathroom in private.  This is also true for changing their clothes and taking a bath.  Anything that deals with their "private parts", or the parts of the body covered up by a swimming suit, should be done in private.

 

A toddler will  start to understand that people do certain activities in private. They are learning how to change their clothes and use the toilet, and wash themselves in the bath anyway.  Teach them the first time about doing it in a private place and it becomes easy to teach, just another part of the process.

Self Touch
 

Self touch is hands on learning that seems to create embarrassing moments for parents.  Here we are defining self touch as anytime a child is touching their private parts whether they are in public or in private.  understand that this self exploration is normal. Toddlers are often very hands on learners to it makes sense that they are trying to learn hands on about their body parts. By touching and "exploring"  their bodies they are becoming comfortable with the way their body is.  They may go through phases where they explore more than usual. These phases do not need to be stopped. The exploration will likely happen anyway. The amount of shame and desire to hide the exploration will depend on how a parent reacts to the exploration. Remember, hiding is never a good thing and should not be encouraged or propelled by shaming. Parents can manage the shame they feel and let their toddler explore their body. Acceptance of their exploration and learning cultivates a healthy view of their body.

Yes they have sensations when they are touching their body parts but it is not an erotic response for them at this stage in their development.  Often they will explain as a tickle. It is halepful for you to label this as a sensation. Engaging with your child in this was can help them feel accepted in the learning process.  It is normal and good for them to listen to their body.  Parents want them to listen to their body as they learn to use the toilet so that they have to pee or poop they will go to the bathroom. Listening to their body is encouraged.

Set Boundaries
Differentiating Relationships

The first few years of life are full of discovery. Your child learns to accept their own body and existence. We see this as an infant stares at his hands for the first time. Each child is developing a view of their own body. Then around six months an infant will begin to differentiate relationships. They will act differently around mom than a complete stranger. This is normal and encouraged as this natural phenomenon will help them understand that different relationships allow for different types of intimacy.  There are courteous relationships, friendships, and relationships.  These all allow for differnt types of intimacy. When thinking about setting your own family boundaries, you can try to categorize people around you in these different types of relationships. Then help your child know what kind of intimacy is appropriate for that particular individual based on that relationship type.

Consent

It is important to let the child decide, it is important that they feel like they have control over the physical intimacy they participate in. It should be acceptable if the child does not want to share physical intimacy. Guilting or requiring children into intimacy is not a good habit to start.

It is important that we teach consent from day one. Even parents in some families ask for consent before showing affection to their children out of respect for their child's right to their bodies. This gives the child lots of opportunities to practice giving consent and parents allowing their choice. When parents ask consent from their toddler, it helps the toddler understand that giving and receive consent is normal and encouraged. When a parent asks if they can have a hug and the toddlers say they don't want to give a hug, Then parents do not give a hug.

Communicating Boundaries

Designate adults who can help your toddler. Let those adults know that you are comfortable allowing them to help your toddler during private times. Let your toddler know who is allowed to help them during these times as well. It is also important to make those boundaries known to other adults as well. It can be hard to express and hold these boundaries, especially with family members.

 

Here is a way parents can phrase questions to help ease the pressure they may feel about telling others about their family boundaries:"Would you like to give (person) a (form of affection) or a (different form of affection) to say goodbye?"Here is an example of offering a chance for a toddler to give some general physical affection: "Mary, it is time for us to go. Would you like to give grandma a hug or a kiss on the cheek to say goodbye?"

 

This helps put some of the responsibility of the boundary on you and not just on the toddler. It sets the toddler up for success because they are able to choose something that works within the boundaries you have already set. It also helps other adults understand what options you are giving them and they will start to offer them those same choices.

 

Again it doesn't matter what the boundaries are but that they are followed and that they are consistent. There can be no expections, consistency is keys and will yield the most success in learning this skill.

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