Dear Sue Ellen,
I love your column! It’s the first thing I read every week. I have a question. My live-in boyfriend and I have a 4 year old daughter and we still take showers with her. Is that abuse? I told him she is too big to still be doing that, but he does not agree.
Sometimes there is a fine line between abuse and poor judgment. Some cultures are not as obsessed with the naked body as ours is. There is something practical and endearing about a couple bathing or showering with their baby, but when does it become inappropriate? I think we all have opinions about this, but the Texas Family Code says any sexual conduct that is harmful to a child is against the law, including indecency with a child. You have to make responsible decisions about teaching your child to respect her own body and the privacy of others. Why? Because a child that has no sense of modesty with their private parts is at-risk for sexual abuse. It could be a red flag for teachers and others if she talks about taking showers with daddy. Yeah…I would strongly urge you to stop doing that immediately and start working on teaching your daughter that anything under her bathing suit is her private parts and are not for anyone else to see or touch. Be honest with yourself…I bet she has noticed the difference between her naked body and her daddy’s naked body. A good rule of thumb is start teaching your children modesty about the time a child is old enough to notice the differences between male and female bodies. Please show your child respect by NOT parading through the house naked.
Did you know that children today are so sexualized through TV and everyday life that their bodies are developing at a much faster rate? I didn’t make this up! According to a leading physician in the field of sex education, there is hard evidence to this fact. Little girls are starting their menstrual cycles as young as 8 years old. As parents and grandparents, we must protect our children in ways that we never needed when we were kids. One of the ways you can protect your daughter is teach her the proper name for body parts and answer questions she may have about her body with truthful, but age appropriate answers. I know it is an awkward conversation, but if parents would open that dialog with their children, they have a much better chance of steering their children on a safer path. Don’t wait until your daughter is 12 to have those kind of conversations. She needs to know that you and her daddy are the people she goes to for questions about sex; otherwise she will learn awful things from other kids at school.
Are you wondering how we digressed from talking about family showers to sexual abuse? I digressed; just like the cycle of sexual abuse is a digression from something that might seem innocent into something dark and dirty. Protect your baby girl. Always.
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