When it comes to teaching your kids the difference between good and bad touch, starting at an early age is key. It is also important to begin speaking with your children as early as possible about how and why private parts are private. Teaching your children the proper names for these areas is the first building block. This gives them the correct tools to express their concerns. If your daughter tells her teacher that someone touched her poodle (vagina), the teacher won’t have the requisite background information to understand what the child is trying to tell her. This then discourages the child from speaking up again. Once you have given them the tools to understand their body and to communicate with caregivers you can begin to broach the subject as a whole.
What is a bad touch really?
Bad touch areas include private parts as well as breast and bottom areas, but also any unwanted touch to their body that makes them feel uncomfortable or icky. At the age of 2 you can start by simply pointing out the main areas and saying that no one is allowed to touch them unless they are changing their diaper. At this point that is all that they are capable of really understanding. At age 3 you should include any touch to their body (anywhere) that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Teach them context
Context is so important when teaching children anything. Without it concepts can be really confusing because the world is full of so many exceptions to all the rules that they are taught.
• Make sure that they know that a doctor is the only non-caretaker person who should be touching their privates and only during an exam and under the supervision of mom or dad.
• Let them know that their privates should only be touched by a caretaker during a diaper change or bath, and only to clean the area.
• Role play the different situations and make sure to remind them at every doctor’s appointment.
• Make sure that they know that even if someone says that they are a doctor that it is not ok for them to touch or look at their privates outside of a doctor’s office and without a parent supervising.
Give them power
We need to teach children how to say no. Kids are constantly told that they need to listen, be respectful and to do what adults tell them, and are punished if they do not comply. Because of this many kids feel like they are going to get in trouble if they say no. I teach my children that their body is theirs and theirs alone and that they have the power to tell someone to not touch them in any context. Situations where adults often innocently ignore children when they say no are:
• Hugs. Never make your child give or receive a hug to anyone if they do not wish to. Oftentimes we as parents tell our children that they need to hug or be hugged by family members and friends.
• Tickling. Oftentimes adults think that tickling is fun way to interact with children. Even if the adult who is tickling them is a member of your family you as the parent need to back up your child and make sure that the adult stops when your child says no.
These situations send a wrong and confusing message to children. It makes them believe that their power to say no comes with restrictions.
Make sure to listen when they tell you or someone else no. Stop when your child asks you to do so. Be present and aware of their interactions with other adults. Ask them occasionally if anyone has ever touched them in a way that has made them feel uncomfortable. Many adults who were abused as children often say that if someone had only asked they would have felt brave enough to tell.
Back them up
Make sure that you back your children up when they say no. You are their enforcer; their champion. If they want Uncle to stop tickling them, or grandma to stop hugging and kissing on them, but those adults are not listening you will need to step in and make sure that your child’s wishes are heard and understood. This can create some friction and you may get some push back from those who simply do not agree with you, but you need to stand your ground. Your child needs to feel safe and secure in the notion that they have the power to say no and that you are going to come to their defense in this regard no matter what. Oftentimes abusers will tell children that it was their fault, or that mom and dad would be upset with them, or simply that they are an adult and the child needs to comply or they will get in trouble. Standing up for them in everyday situations will help them gain the strength to say no when it counts the most.
Destiny Effertz is a mother of 3 boys; twin 3 year olds and a 5 year old. She worked for many years as a civil litigation paralegal prior to having children. Now she spends her days formulating new pie recipes, throwing epic kid parties, planning family vacations, and planning and executing pirate adventures and trips to far away planets with her boys.
Are you a new twin parent? Check out Natalie Diaz’s new book “What To Do When You’re Having Two: The Twin Survival Guide From Pregnancy Through the First Year”, available in stores now!
The rate of twin births has risen 79 percent over the last three decades, and continues to increase. A mom of fraternal twins and a national guru on having two, Natalie Diaz launched Twiniversity, a supportive website with advice from the twin-trenches.
What to Do When You’re Having Two is the definitive how-to guide to parenting twins, covering how to make a Birth Plan checklist, sticking to one sleep schedule, managing double-duty breastfeeding, stocking up on all the necessary gear, building one-on-one relationships with each child, and more.
Accessible and informative, What to Do When You’re Having Two is the must-have manual for all parents of twins.
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