Following up from our post today about body safety, there are some other tools that we find useful in helping prevent abuse in children.
You’ve set the stage with the foundation of: proper body part terminology, consent, body privacy vs. body secrets, safe touch vs. bad touch, saying “no” when you’re uncomfortable, even if it means that you have to be rude, and always tell mom or dad when you’re uncomfortable or sad or confused or scared.
These terms and discussions need to be reiterated and reinforced again and again. These values need to become a part of your regular discussions. We like to use the term, in our home: The “Do Tell” rule. Any body secrets or uncomfortable situations trigger a “Do Tell” - a child is taught to identify circumstances that require that mom or dad are alerted, immediately.
Now it’s time to get a little more detailed and graphic with your children. The more specific you are, the more empowered they will be. So don’t be vague or uncomfortable. Be firm, and matter-of-fact:
1. We have spoken about teaching a child that no one can touch their private parts. Unless mom and dad or a doctor (with mom or dad IN THE ROOM) need to clean or examine them, there are NO exceptions. Anything else, triggers the “do tell” rule. The next part is JUST as important: Remember to tell a child that NO ONE can EVER ask A CHILD to touch THEIR private parts EITHER. Abuse often starts with the perpetrator asking a child to touch them.
2. It is important to give children examples of how others might try to guilt them into keeping a secret: “If you tell someone about this, we won’t ever get to play together again,” or: “If you tell someone, you will get into trouble,” or: “If you tell someone, then I will get terribly hurt.” Always reinforce that telling a body secret to a parent will NEVER get a child in trouble. Ever. No matter what that secret might be. And there is NEVER a reason to keep the secret. Ever. No exceptions. No excuses. Do tell!
3. We often only discuss TOUCH with our children. But it is important to empower children to understand that no one can ever ask to SEE or TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS of their private parts either. No one should ever show them private body parts or photographs of private body parts. This too, triggers the “Do Tell” rule.
4. While saying “No!” or “Stop!” is ideal, some children find this too difficult. If your child has a hard time saying “No!” give them ways to get out of uncomfortable situations that might be easier for them. For example: “I need to use the bathroom!” or “I’m going to get a drink of water.” If they need to lie to get out of an uncomfortable situation, tell them that it is okay to do so. For older children, it is always useful to have a codeword that means they want to be “rescued” from a situation or picked up from a playdate.
5. This is a really important: Children need to be taught that sometimes body touch can tickle, or feel good. Even “bad” touch CAN feel good to their bodies. This is normal, and is nothing to be ashamed or scared of. But it doesn’t make secret touch okay. Ever. All secret touch needs to be told to mom or dad, even if it tickles or feels good. No exceptions. Do tell!
We know these conversations can be uncomfortable. There is never a guarantee, but these tools will give your child the best possible chance of avoiding abuse. What other tools do you use with your children?