Kristen Dunn, left, of the Frederick County Department of Social Services, and Robin Grove of the Child Advocacy Center talk to children during a program at the Edward Fry Memorial Library in Point of Rocks. The Child Advocacy Center and Frederick Community College are partnering to revive a program in which kids can learn about the parts of their body and what inappropriate touching means.
Staff photo by Ric Dugan
Grove and Dunn asked their small audience questions about their feelings and adults in their lives who they can trust as they slowly made their way through the picture book.
“What makes you feel sad?” Grove asked at one point.
“Not getting the last cookie,” one child replied, making Grove and Dunn laugh.
Over the last few years, Grove has noticed progress in efforts to teach caregivers about the importance of giving children control over their bodies and their boundaries.
When she was growing up, she said, it was normal to have family members tell her to give her grandma a hug or a kiss, without considering whether she wanted to or not.
But, she and Dunn told the children on Wednesday, it’s their choice whether or not they want to give someone a hug or a kiss. They can politely say, “No thanks,” and give them a high five or handshake instead.
While the children listened to the story, Heiress lay sleepily at Dunn’s feet.
The mere presence of a dog or animal in a room can lower people’s blood pressure, Dunn said. Heiress is also a great icebreaker, she added.
At the Child Advocacy Center, where Heiress is trained to help children who may have been victims of mistreatment, the dog’s presence helps them open up to talk about their experiences.
“Some kids, especially some of the older ones, might not want to admit that they’re going to a story time at the library, or listening to books read by adults,” Dunn said. “But it can be, ‘Oh, I’m going to see the dog.’ … It opens people up.”
The picture book also addresses the difference between secrets and “happy surprises” with children. Surprises are meant to eventually be revealed, but secrets are meant to be kept.
That’s why children shouldn’t keep secrets, the book said.
“If someone asks you to keep a secret, like touching your private parts, kissing or showing you pictures of private parts, you must tell an adult in your safety network straight away,” Dunn read. “Even if the person tells you not to tell, secrets like that must be told.”
It’s important to teach children the correct names of their private parts, Dunn and Grove said. Doing so helps ensure a child is understood if they tell an adult that someone has touched them inappropriately. It also helps normalize their bodies, and give them a sense of ownership and control over them.
“A lot of times, if something were to happen to a child, they might feel that they’re in trouble or that it was their fault,” Grove said. “And when you’re adding that cloak of shame or embarrassment on top of it, it makes it even more difficult to be able to say something about it.”
If You Go
Next library visits:
Sept 28 at 10:30 a.m. - Myersville Library
Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. - Emmitsburg Library
Oct. 13 at 11 a.m. - Thurmont Library
Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. - Brunswick Library
Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m. - C. Burr Artz Library
Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. - Urbana Library
Nov. 17 at 4 p.m. - Middletown Library
By Angela Roberts, Frederick News Post