In her efforts to empower and educate her children on personal body safety, Natalie Moutafis reviews the picture book My Body! What I say Goes! aimed at younger children and their grown-ups.
As part of my mission to ensure that we are actively having conversations about body autonomy, boundaries and consent, a friend suggested My Body! What I say Goes! by Jayneen Sanders.
This book is simple enough that my 1.5 -year-old puts her hand out to signal ‘stop!’ and can point to various parts of her anatomy when we read about them. It was also very quickly picked up by my almost 4-year-old as he started naming people that could be in his safety network and practiced saying firmly ‘this is my body, what I say goes!’.
It’s been a great conversation starter as my son has become more interested in how his body is different from others, and how our bodies function. It’s helping him understand how he has the power to give consent when it comes to his body and the boundaries he is comfortable with.
The book starts off describing different emotions and how they feel, inviting parents (or carer or educator) to ask the child questions such as ‘what makes you feel safe?’.
Building on the emotions, it then works on the concept of feeling comfortable or uncomfortable and the ways that can feel different for people. This is one area we’ve had lots of family discussion on. Explaining how you might get goosebumps because you just feel a bit cold or because a person or a situation might make you nervous and your body feels cold and you start to get goosebumps.
I particularly loved how this book spoke about how some people might not feel comfortable giving or receiving a hug or a kiss, making it okay to say no to these. It’s something that I found myself doing without realising: instructing my kids to give so-and-so a hug or kiss goodbye, without asking if they would like to do this or not. I wasn’t respecting their personal boundaries or allowing them the opportunity to practice consent.
And when I thought about it further, I’m not sure I’d be so comfortable being told to hug someone goodbye that I don’t know that well either.
Another beautiful idea the book explores is the difference between a happy surprise and a secret. With the pre-schooler only just discovering the joy of telling secrets in hushed tones, this was a great explanation that they can be fun but if they ever make you feel worried or sad that you must tell one of your trusted adults. This is a bit of a tricky one for us as the grown-ups as we are very used to calling them a secret in our family so we are working on changing the language we use ourselves.
There is also a section outlining how everyone has personal space, and how this can be called a ‘body bubble’. This concept is great, but pulls on the mum heartstrings when the preschooler stops me from kissing him goodnight because ‘you’re in my body bubble mum!’. It at least shows me he’s understanding that he is the one to be in control over his body, and the power to give consent.
The illustrations are simple and engaging and help depict the story in such a way that early readers can understand the concepts. With some discussion question prompts for grown-ups included at the end of the book, you can read this many times and have ongoing conversations with your kids in age-appropriate ways that will allow them to feel empowered and confident.
This book will be one we refer to often as our children grow and they begin to understand their feelings and how their bodies react differently to those feelings.
Having books such as these available to help empower our kids keeps it less about a ‘rule from mum and dad’ and more about a story and the conversation that results from reading it.
About the book
This is part of our series of reviews of children’s books, both new and released in recent times.
My Body! What I say Goes! by Jayneen Sanders illustrated by Anna Hancock is published by Educate2Empower Publishing and retails for $14.95.
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