Updated: Aug 7, 2020
One of the most important tools in sexual abuse prevention is clear and open communication with your child. We don’t mean just having the birds and the bees talk, we mean constantly building a sense of trust and comfort in your home for healthy conversations about sexual safety. Imagine how your child’s entire future can be affected by experiencing sexual abuse. Now imagine how you have the power to help keep them safe from abuse through a conversation with them. Here are some tips to help you approach safety-focused conversations with your child based on age:
Under 5 years old
Introducing rules about safety and having several safety rule talks during the early stages of childhood can be an effective tool for normalizing these conversations, and establishing a line of communication between parent and child.
Teach your child the appropriate names for body parts. Use fun activities such as songs or reading books to keep them engaged.
Integrate information about private body parts when talking about general safety. For example, along with general safety rules like looking both ways before they cross the street and wearing a helmet when riding a bike, you can also emphasize respecting other people’s bodies and that it is not okay to touch someone’s private parts.
Be a role model. Always remind them of the safety rules you established, and follow those rules yourself.
Age 6 to 10
As children grow, you can begin having more specific conversations that focus on body safety and boundaries.
Some situations you can use to start a conversation include during a car ride, eating ice cream or a sweet treat together, and before bedtime.
Remind your child to be confident in their safety rules and to always speak up if someone breaks those rules.
Along with the rules already established, you can specify that they should never be forced to look or touch someone else’s private parts or allow others to take inappropriate pictures of those parts.
Let your child know that they should trust their instinct - if another adult makes them feel uncomfortable, that is a sign they should speak to you about it.
Age 11 to 18
During this age, your child will experience hormonal changes and have increased curiosity regarding sexuality and their body. As they are exposed to and influenced by information from the media and their peers, it is essential for you to maintain an open line of communication with them.
Teenagers may not want to speak about sex and safety with their parents due to feeling awkward or embarrassed. It is your job to break through that barrier and help them feel comfortable in speaking to you.
Show interest in their life! Ask them about their friends! Do they like someone romantically? How is their relationship going? Have they established any boundaries?
Use your personal stories from when you were their age to relate to them.
Help your child understand consent. Your child should always demand respect and never feel forced to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable in their relationship.
It's normal to feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed when having these conversations with your child. Take a moment to remember that safety is the priority. It is always better for your child to feel comfortable enough to come to you for information about sexual safety, than for them to seek that knowledge elsewhere. Education is the most effective prevention strategy against sexual abuse. We hope this guide can help you approach these conversations and provide your child with the advantage of living a life free of sexual abuse.