News & Perspectives

News & Perspectives

Teaching Children about Safe Touches

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Originally published in First Time Parent Magazine

By Tammy Bernadi, Children's Trust Prevention Training Coordinator

Did you know that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday? National statistics indicated that 85% of these attacks are carried out not by strangers, but by people the children know and trust. It’s a topic no one wants to talk about and that no one thinks will happen to their kids, but the reality is that child sexual abuse is far more common than most people realize. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As parents, there are things we can do to protect our children from abuse.

Teaching our kids about “safe touches” is a way to help them understand what is appropriate so that they know to notify you if something doesn’t seem right. Ensuring your child understands what “private parts” and “clean and healthy” mean, and what to do if someone makes them feel uncomfortable, is something every parent should do. Here are a few tips to help you teach your kids about safe touches:

Teach your child what parts of their body are considered private. The simplest explanation is that private parts are those that are typically covered by their swimsuit.

Use the correct term, i.e. penis and vagina, for all body parts. Experts encourage parents to use the correct terms for private body parts because it gives children the ability to communicate clearly if something ever happens. A good approach is to use words a doctor or nurse might say to describe private parts.

Explain what clean and healthy means in terms your child can understand. For example, you wash your hands before dinner to be clean, baby's diapers need to be changed to keep them
clean and healthy, and we sometimes visit the doctor to be healthy.

Ask your child to name the people they can think of that keep them clean and healthy. These people have permission from mommy or
daddy and typically include:
• Mommy
• Daddy
• Grandma
• Grandpa
• Teacher (if a problem arises in school)
• Doctor
• Nurse

Be specific about why each of these people help keep them clean and healthy. For example, mommy or daddy might help give a child a bath and a nurse or doctor might check a child all over to keep them healthy.

Give your children permission to tell you or another safe adult about someone who wanted to touch their private parts or did touch their private parts. The point here is that it is much better to tell right away if something happens. 

Giving permission for your child to talk about what happened is
key and it’s also important to tell your children it is never too late to tell.

Always believe your child. It is very rare that a child will falsely disclose. If someone tries to hurt your child, the child is never to blame. It’s a scary and uncomfortable topic but communicating with your child about safe touches can save them from becoming a victim. 

Together, we can end child abuse.