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Watching news reports about kidnapped or abused children is especially terrifying if you are a parent of young children. Without over-explaining or instilling unnecessary fear in them, you can teach them that they have the authority to consent or reject any physical advances made towards them. This article will help you educate your children about the differences between good touch and bad touch for preschoolers and young children.
Why is It Important to Educate Your Child About Touch?
There is no reason to constantly fear for the safety of your child; however, as long as the likelihood of danger remains, you must educate your child about the various kinds of touch they can experience. An unwanted touch can appear in any form, and it need not be limited to sexual abuse. Even something as mild as a hug or caress from a relative might be unwanted. It does not matter if the touch seems fine to you; it matters only that your child is comfortable with it. The distinction you must make is this: Good touch is physical contact that they are comfortable with and bad touch is physical contact that makes them uncomfortable. Further, small children are naturally trusting of the adults around them and will extend friendships towards strangers without any qualms. It is up to you as the parent to ensure they understand the basic concept of self-preservation.
Teaching Your Kid About Good Touch
Good touch or physical affection is a wonderful way to bond with your child. Here are a few points to keep in mind when trying to explain to your child about good touch.
- Good touches feel nice and warm, and make one feel safe and protected.
- Show them real-life situations which include good touches like hugs and kisses by you or your spouse. Or, for example, when they hold hands with their friends while playing.
- Inculcate in them the right to their bodies. Tell them that their body belongs to them alone, and they have the absolute choice to deny anyone else, including yourself, from touching them if they wish.
Teaching Your Kid About Bad Touch
Bad touch is far more insidious than it sounds and can lead to severe physical, emotional and psychological trauma if inflicted on a child. It is imperative your child knows how to discern between types of physical contact.
- Tell them that their bodies have different levels of security, that is being patted on the head or back might be acceptable but being fondled in the private regions such as the chest, buttocks and genitals is unacceptable.
- It does not matter if the touch happens with clothes on, it still counts as bad.
- Ensure they know how to call out for help if they are feeling trapped or in an uncomfortable situation.
What Should Parents Watch Out For?
Constant vigilance is essential when raising children. Even though there is no need to be blindly distrustful of strangers around your child, it is important you are not blind to risks that are closer to you. Several studies report that the most common sexual predator is not some stranger, but actually someone well-known to you or your child, as unpleasant as it is to consider. The key is to notice any strange behaviour from either your child or the adult in question. Abused children exhibit noticeable signs of distress in the presence of their abuser. Understanding that your child might be suffering means that you will have to rid yourself of any bias you might have for the potential abuser, no matter how close they are to you. This is understandably very difficult to do, especially if the potential abuser is a friend, family member or even your spouse, but always remember that your child depends on you for their safety and happiness.
Making Your Child Aware of Child Abuse
This is not an era where people shy away from mentioning anything sexual around their children. Children are quite able to grasp complex topics like sexuality and abuse. Once you explain to them how certain regions of their bodies are private, elaborate on how these spaces are delicate and must be protected from intrusion. Teach them to say no to strangers who offer treats or rides. Do not teach your kids to obey or respect any adult they come across if that adult is infringing on their physical space; instead, tell them to shout or fight back. And most importantly, let them know that they are not going to be punished or scolded for doing so, that they have done nothing wrong and have no reason to feel guilty.
Tips for Educating Toddlers About Good Touch and Bad Touch
1. Don’t Be Shy
Being uninhibited with regards to sexual matters is crucial, and though these topics might be sensitive to broach, you are where your child gets their cues from. Explain to them in an engaging way with examples they are familiar with.
Don’t get too formal or technical with your children; while they can grasp complex notions, they do not need to feel like they are being interrogated. Cut out the serious talk, and use a gentle and calm voice.
3. Bond With Your Child
Nothing matters more than creating a solid bond of trust and warmth between your child and yourself. This will let them know that you are there for them with love and lack of judgement, should anything go wrong.
4. Stick to the Terminology
Don’t treat your children like innocent beings who have to be kept away from sexual language. Employing the appropriate terminology for their body parts, such as penis, vagina and so on, makes these parts feel more important than if you call them by childish slang words. The right words will be also helpful for your child to express themselves accurately with respect to their body.
5. The Swimsuit Rule
This is a simple rule to follow when teaching very young children about bad touch. Explain to them that any parts of their body covered by a swimming outfit or underwear are a private region that should not be touched or seen by anyone except themselves. This way they will know if they are being inappropriately touched and can voice their responses to you. However, insist that they inform you if they feel uncomfortable by being touched anywhere on their bodies.
6. Safe Touch
Good touch feels great and is a bonding experience, while bad touch breeds discomfort and stress. But let your child know about the intermediate safe touch, which might feel bad but is actually necessary. For example, examinations by doctors, receiving injections and medical treatments might upset your child but they need to know that these actions are necessary to safeguard their health.
7. Employ the Right Literature
There are several books around that you can use to teach your children about the right and wrong ways to be touched. These books usually come with pictorial representations of the human anatomy, from which they can learn about their bodies as well.
8. Allow Your Child to Back Off
Sometimes children just aren’t feeling affectionate or in a physical mood. Some children can also be naturally distant. Don’t force them to provide physical affection, as this might cause them to associate touching you with their lowered moods. Let them walk away from any physical encounters if they want to, even if it upsets you.
9. Teach Your Child to Trust Themselves
Your child should not be feeling guilty if they refuse affection from anyone for any reason. Tell them that when it comes to their own physical space, their feelings and decisions are paramount. This will teach them to trust their emotions with clarity.
10. Role Playing
Children are more amenable to visual narratives than a basic explanation. You can play small games with them where they can practice shouting for help or saying “No” if someone is pestering them.
The value of physical affection is immeasurable. Hugs increase pleasure hormone levels, babies are soothed by direct skin contact, and so on. Your child will thrive best on loads of affection from close family and friends. But do keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary as children can remain blissfully unaware of the several dangers that surround them. Finally, this has been said before but it bears repeating: Most abusers are known to either you or your child, so please do not brush it off if your kid tells you it was someone you trust.