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Reflections Magazine : Issue 56 Spring 2014
REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SPRING 2014 - ISSUE 56 19 The Traffic Lights® guide: Responding positively to sexual behaviours The Traffic Lights® guide provides a framework for adults to identify, understand and respond to children's sexual behaviours. It uses the traffic light colours green, orange and red to categorise sexual behaviours and help adults to respond. • Green represents developmentally healthy sexual behaviours and provides opportunities to talk, explain and support. • Orange represents sexual behaviours that give cause for concern and require further observation and targeted support. • Red represents sexual behaviours that are problematic or harmful and indicate a need for immediate protective intervention. The Traffic Lights® guide can be used to help identify if a sexual behaviour is green, orange or red, it helps to explain why the behaviours may be happening and it gives suggestions about what can be done in response to that behaviour. Here are some examples of how the Traffic Lights® guide can be used to identify, understand and respond to sexual behaviours. Green Light scenario Melissa (aged 3) points to Jose (aged 3) while he is going to the toilet and asks "What's that?"This would be green light behaviour. It is understandable that young children are curious about bodies. They are surrounded by them! To respond to Melissa's curiosity, answer her question briefly, factually and positively by saying something like, "That is a boy's private part called a penis." You can provide further support and guidance by talking with all children about the names of private body parts, the rules about touch and who they can talk to about bodies. The resource package Where do I start? can help with this. Orange light scenario Ari (aged 4) will regularly follow Kay and Marg to the toilets. He says he likes to watch them 'wee'. Marg says that he sometimes tries to touch her 'down there'. Although it is normal for children to be curious about other people's bodies, the key words in this scenario, 'regularly' and 'sometimes tries to touch' mean that this is an orange light behaviour. Ari needs to know clearly that it is not okay to touch other people's private parts. It is important that Ari has an opportunity to learn about bodies in an age appropriate way and that he learns the rules about touch. The book, Everyone's got a bottom can help with this. Ari will also need to be monitored when he uses the bathroom to ensure that he is following the rules about touch. Other children would also benefit by learning the rules about touch and who to tell. Communicate with your centre management to work out how best to monitor and support Ari and the other children. Red light scenario Lila (aged 3) shows you her new teddy and tells you that her mummy's boyfriend gave it to her because she has been a good girl and not told anyone about their touching game. This is a red light scenario. It must be investigated and you need to follow through with reporting requirements. This can be stressful for all involved so providing support where you can is important. Using the Traffic Lights® guide to communicate with staff can help you navigate through a situation like this, step by step. Don't forget to also provide positive and universal relationships and sexuality education to all children in your centre. Talking about relationships and sexuality helps protect childre Relationships and sexuality education is incredibly important. It helps protect children from sexual abuse. It improves sexual health outcomes. Finally, it provides information and experience in talking about these topics in a supported way. It helps children feel more comfortable and confident in their bodies, which will be vital later as they negotiate relationships with friends, health professionals and partners. Ultimately, it is worthwhile for early childhood services to proactively identify and develop their approach in supporting healthy sexual development. It will be easier for the educators at a centre to respond confidently and comfortably if they are familiar with the subject matter and the developmental 'trajectory' of the children in their care. Resources that can help • Family Planning Queensland's (FPQ) Traffic Lights® resources and training include webinars, a brochure and a resource book called Is this normal? These and other resources to support children's sexual development are available through the FPQ's website, (www.fpq.com.au). • The Raising Children Network (www.raisingchildren.net.au) provides general information on raising sexually healthy children. References: Brennan, H. & Graham, J. (2012). Is this normal? Understanding your child's sexual behaviour. Brisbane: FPQ. FPQ (2009). Where do I start? Supporting healthy sexual development in early childhood. Brisbane: FPQ. FPQ (2012). Sexual behaviours in children and young people: A guide to identify, understand and respond to sexual behaviours. Brisbane: FPQ. Kirby, D. (2001). Emerging answers: Research findings on programs to reduce teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Sanderson, J. (2004). Child-focused sexual abuse prevention programs. Crime and Misconduct Commission Research and Issues Paper Series, No. 5. Brisbane: Crime and Misconduct Commission.
Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
Reflections Magazine Issue 55 Winter 2014