We as parents are, often, at crossroads about how we can talk about good touch and bad touch to children. We always have many questions in our mind regarding this topic like:
“Is my kid old enough to understand this?”
“How do I talk to my child about safe and unsafe touches?”
“Child sexual abuse sounds scary! I don’t want to scare my child.”
Yes, this is an extremely sensitive and tough topic for parents and children. But still, it is essential to empower them in today’s scenario!
So, let’s take a deep breath and set on a journey to understand how we can educate kids about safe touch and unsafe touch, why it is important, when is it suitable to start, and what are the different ways.
You have raised your child like a little prince or princess. You are aware of all their requirements and are there for them whenever they need you to be there. But you cannot be everywhere, at every given point in time. Be it at your family celebrations, their school, hobby classes, or their daycare centers, they will meet different people – in your presence or otherwise. And let’s face it, not everyone will mean well. In fact, some may try to cause harm and touch your child inappropriately.
So how do you make your child identify and differentiate between these good and bad touches? How do you help them take the right action upon encountering bad touches? READ ON TO KNOW IT!
Step 1: Tell them that they can share everything with you
Building a bond of trust with your child is essential, right at a very tender age. You must tell them that you are there for them, you believe them, and will trust them if they wish to share anything with you and confide in you.
Step 2: Understanding the touches
Imagine as a child, when your mom or dad hugged with care, it made you feel safe, right?
Good touch or safe touch is a touch that makes a child feel safe, cared for, and joyful. Bad touch or unsafe touch is a touch that makes a child uncomfortable, scared, or anxious.
It is safe or good when a person wants to display care or help/assist a child with their tasks such as giving a handshake, a high-five, holding hands, hugs (that don’t cause any discomfort).
It is unsafe or bad when the child wants the other person — any touching once or repetitively by a known or specific person that causes discomfort — to stop it immediately. This causes pain or shame.
Touch is a sense and a strong non-verbal form of communication. So, what it evokes becomes an essential way to teach your child to understand them.
Step 3: Teach Body Parts to Your Child Early
It is never too early to impart sex education to your child, at least at a basic level. This part of education begins with teaching your child about private body parts that others should not touch.
Step 4: Tell Them That Their Body Belongs to Only Them
Give them the ownership of their bodies. It means that you tell them very early in life that their bodies belong to them, and only them. It also means giving them the freedom to refuse a hug, kiss, or pat on the back, even, if they are not comfortable with it.
Step 5: Use the Right Language
When you explain to them about their anatomy, use the right words and the right language. Let them know that there is nothing dirty or bad about their bodies and that there is a difference between a female and a male body.
Step 6: Follow the Swimsuit Rule
The easiest way to teach your child about a good and bad touch is to follow the swimsuit rule of teaching. Tell them that the parts covered by a swimsuit are private and that nobody can touch you there. Also, tell them that they need to report to you about any incident where a grown-up has tried to touch them in these private parts.
Step7: Teach Them About Safe Touch
Help them understand what is meant by a ‘safe touch’. When a child’s mother, father, or doctor touches them, they do so only to ensure that their bodies are safe and examine them during a routine check-up. This is a safe touch. Nobody other than these three individuals can touch them, or ask them to lift their garments to examine them.
Step 8: Tell Them That They Can and Must Say “No”
You must let your child know that when someone tries to touch them inappropriately, they have every right to refuse and say a firm ‘No’ or ‘Stop’. Assure them that there is no shame in asking a grown-up to stop or call them out loud and clear. Children should know that screaming and attracting the attention of others can put them in a safe spot and their molester in a tight one.
Step 9:Teach Them to Get Away From That Place
You must teach your child to get away from that place as soon as they can. Also, they must know that they should not be alone with that person, whoever he or she may be, in the future. Being alone with the perpetrator of such a crime gives them the confidence to commit the crime again.
Step 10: Help Them Understand That They are Not at Fault
It is important that the child knows right behavior from wrong, and does not consider themselves responsible for somebody else’s wrongdoings. You must assure them that the one who touches them inappropriately is the one at fault and that they should not associate and harbor any feelings of guilt with such an incident.
Step 11: Do Not Force Affection on the Child
You must, at your end, never force affection on your child. Be it your own or somebody else’s. A warm hug from a relative or a peck from a friend must be encouraged only if your child appreciates it and feels comfortable with it.
Why teach about safe touch & unsafe touch?
It’s there in our environment. And, what better way than making them aware. They’re going to find ways to find out what it is.
So, instead of encouraging them to just go and find it from sources that we do not trust, we parents should take responsibility for ourselves and give them the right information and make them aware.
When we speak about good and bad touches, it enables your child to
- build healthy self-esteem and self-confidence
- create their body boundaries
- speak out about their bodies and be comfortable with it
- identify any incorrect intentions and inform their parents about it
- become more emotionally aware
Most importantly, it shows kids that their parents are approachable and could feel safe to speak about their discomfort.
We need to build that level of bonding and communication with a child where they feel safe and comfortable to come back and report to us, to discuss with us, to ask questions, that they cannot ask outside.
So, instead of shooing them away or making it a hush-hush topic, it is better to speak to them about it.
Appropriate Age to Teach Good Touch and Bad Touch
Unfortunately, pedophiles don’t have any minimum limit when it comes to sexually abusing a child. It starts right from newborn babies and extends all the way till they are considered “a child”. This makes it very important for parents to teach about touch as early as possible.
Now you may wonder how you can explain a good or a safe touch to a two or a three-year-old who seems to trust everyone around. This is indeed very tricky!
How to Teach About Touch?
Good or bad are the general terms we end up using with kids, simply because those words are simple. Use every opportunity to teach them about good touch and bad touch. Some possible ways are:
1. Bath Time
When you bathe them or dry them after a bath, keep playing with them as usual and when you come to their private parts, tell them anyone touching them is just wrong.
2. Play Time
When you are playing with them physically, hold them gently and slowly increase pressure and tell them this type of touch is wrong. If the touch makes them sad or angry, or if they don’t like the touch, then it is wrong.
3. Changing Time
When you help them change clothes, close the door, even if it’s just you and your child at home. Predators approach when they are alone with the child.
Tell your child, no one should watch them change or see them without their clothes. Explain over time, it is ok for mom and dad to see or help while changing (you can include other trusted elders if you are living in a joint family) but others can’t.