Safety Tips for Parents
Chances are you started to teach your children safety rules as soon as they could move about – rules like “don’t touch the hot stove,” and “don’t run into the street.” And every child learns about “not taking candy from a stranger.”
Here is another set of safety rules to help you teach your child the difference between affection and abuse, between good touching and bad touching. Your willingness to talk about sexual abuse with your children can be the first important step in preventing it from ever happening.
- Teach your children that they are special and deserve safe touching.
- Find out what your children know about safe and unsafe types of touching. By asking about it, you let them know it is okay to talk about these things.
- Be simple and specific when talking with your children. Be sure they understand what you mean.
- Be calm and matter of fact. This information does not have to be embarrassing. It is okay to tell your children that this is a difficult topic for you to talk about – they will know this from your attitude anyway.
- Teach your children the correct names for all the parts of the body. If you are uncomfortable with the anatomically correct names, practice them aloud in private until you are comfortable with them. In the meantime, the term “private parts” will do, as long as you are specific about which these are.
- Encourage your children to come to you with any and all questions. Let them know that you are an “askable” parent, and LISTEN to what they say.
- Encourage your children to trust their feelings. Tell them that it is okay to say NO to ANYONE, including to people they know, who touches them in a hurting or confusing way and that they should always tell you about.
- Teach your children that it is unsafe to keep secrets about touching. Let them know whom they can tell. And that they should keep telling until a safe adult listens to them.
- Teach your children that it is not okay for any grown up or even a big kid to touch them inside or outside their clothing, stare at their private parts, or take pictures of their private parts.
- Teach your children that it is not okay for them to be forced into looking at or touching another person’s private parts.
- Play prevention games with your children. Create “what if” situations that may be confusing or scary and ask your children what they would do about it. (“What would you do if someone asked you to play undressing games?”) Balance this with games about touching.
- If your children are afraid to be alone with someone, such as a family member, relative or babysitter, FIND OUT WHY! Most abusive touching is done by someone children know.
- Teach your children that you will believe them when they come to you with problems about touching—and mean it!
- Teach your children that while most grown-ups know how to behave with children, some do not – and may need to get help. If they meet one of these grown-ups or older children, tell children they can utilize the safety skills of yelling no, getting to a safe place and telling a safe adult.
- Make sure your children know that when unsafe touching happens, it is not their fault, and that they will NOT get in trouble for telling you about it.
- Give children permission to make decisions about who touches them and how, even when the touch is a safe, or, “good” touch. For example, instead of “Give Aunt Paula a kiss goodnight!” say, “Would you like to give Aunt Paula a kiss goodnight?” And, be okay with a “no” answer – you are teaching healthy boundaries.
We all want our children to grow up to be safe and happy people. Today, this means more than warning them not to take candy from strangers. It means giving them the knowledge and confidence needed to defend themselves, if necessary, from friends and relatives. Teaching the difference between affection and abuse is a big step that you as a parent can take to be sure your child has a safe and happy life.
John W. Rankin