Think about all the different ways that touch affects your life. A hug from a parent can provide a sense of comfort. Petting a dog can lead to feelings of happiness and love. A first kiss can lead to butterflies in your stomach. Just as safe touches can lead to positive feelings, unsafe touches can lead to feelings such as anger, confusion, and fear. Learning about unsafe touches can help protect your child’s innocence and empower them to protect their boundaries. We encourage you to use the following tips when having conversations with your child on how to identify, prevent and report unsafe touches.
1. Your body is your own
One of the most important things to teach a child is that they are unique in the world and that their body belongs to them. Empower them to remember that they have control over their body and that no one is allowed to touch their private parts.
2. Boundaries are important
No one should ever force you to touch their private parts., as well as what the differences are between each part. Explain why the body parts covered by a bathing suit are private and why it’s important to protect those parts. Establish body safety rules such as:
No one should ever touch your private parts.
No one should ever force you to touch their private parts.
No one should take pictures of you with your clothes off.
3. “No” is a powerful word
Empower your child to speak up, to believe in themselves, and to refuse any unwanted interactions. The majority of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts, making it vital to foster your child's confidence in their voice. Children should be taught to embrace the power of speaking up and protecting their boundaries against anyone, anywhere.
4. What If...
A great way to engage your child in mentally preparing for dangerous situations is through role-playing scenarios. Using "What If....." questions to see how your child would react to different situations where an adult or older child might be trying to touch them in an unsafe way. This can increase their confidence in identifying unsafe touches, reacting to them and reporting them to a parent.
5. Unsafe vs. Bad
We encourage you to use the word “unsafe” rather than “bad” when teaching a child about body safety rules. Using the word bad can make your child feel that they did something wrong and are being judged or blamed for what happened. Describing touch as unsafe focuses on the danger associated with that touch and encourages the child to protect themselves.
It’s important to note that prevention is not achieved by having just one long lecture with your child. Begin normalizing the topic of unsafe touching, body safety and protection from sexual abuse at an early age, and continue to have constant conversations about the topic. Remember, communication is your most powerful tool for keeping your child safe.