Teaching your child about good touch and bad touch is inevitable in today’s unpredictable and highly risky social environment. The increasing number of cases of child molestation are a matter of concern to parents. Of course, precaution is better than cure. Who can be a better person to sensitise your child about this so-called ‘uncomfortable’ yet highly important topic?
Find out when and how you can introduce good and bad touch to your child-
When is the right time to educate your child about good touch and bad touch?
Well, the sooner the better. When your child is introduced to the outside world say at the age of 3 years (when a child is normally placed in a playschool) some basics about good touch and bad touch should be clear, though they may not understand every bit of it at this age. Experts say that a child can be taught about it as early as 2 years of age when they can start identifying the parts of their body. By the age of 5 years, the child should be able to understand good and bad touch in a comprehensive manner.
Understanding good touch and bad touch
What is a good touch?
To be hugged and kissed by the people you love is a nice feeling and is required for the emotional development of kids and a feeling of well being.
This is how you can explain it to your child-
- When Mommy or Daddy gives you a hug and kiss after you wake up, do you feel good about it?
- When Daddy and Mommy give you a good-night hug and kiss, how do you feel?
- When Grandma and Grandpa come to visit and everyone gets hugs and kisses, isn’t it a nice feeling?
- Your teacher gives you a pat on your back for doing good in class, you are playing with your friends and you are hugged for winning the game, does it make you uncomfortable? If it does not, it is a good touch.
What is a bad touch?
Any kind of touch that makes one feel uncomfortable is usually a bad touch.
This is how you can explain it to your child
- If the touch hurts you, it is a bad touch.
- If someone touches you on your body where you don’t want to be touched, it is a bad touch.
- If the person touches you under your clothing or tickles you under the clothing, it is definitely a bad touch. It is a bad touch if a person touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- If the touch makes you feel scared and nervous especially when you are alone(not at the doctors with your parent), it is a bad touch.
- If a person forces you to touch him or her, it is a bad touch.
- If a person asks you not to tell anyone about the touch, it is a bad touch.
- If a person threatens to hurt you if you tell about the touch, it is a bad touch.
Tips to teach about good touch and bad touch to your child
Let your kids know their body parts well
Help your child to know the parts of his/her body well, stating which body parts are private parts and should not be touched by others. Avoid using baby language like ‘pee-pee’, ‘poo-poo’ to talk about private parts even to your toddlers. Most toddlers and young children can identify the parts of their body by the age of two. Explain the anatomy of the body to your school-age children without being embarrassed and making them feel embarrassed. Use the swimsuit rule to make the concept clearer, like say the parts of the body which are covered when wearing a swimsuit are private parts and should not be seen and touched by others.
Tell your kids that they own their body
Let your kids understand the concept of ownership of their body i.e. nobody can touch their body if they don’t want them to. They can say no to hugs and kisses as well if they don’t like it, even if it makes you feel bad. Never force your child to hug guests if they don’t want to. Make sure you respect their private space else they won’t understand the importance of it.
Bond with your child
If you want your kids to talk about their secrets and confusions regarding their body or untoward incidents, spend enough time with them and talk to them openly. Remember, you are the safest person that they can share their fears and inhibitions with. A feeling of trust and acceptance will make your child feel comfortable discussing such topics with you. Tell your kids to never keep a secret when someone gives them a bad touch. Make them understand that the person who touched in the wrong way is bad, not them.
Teach them to speak up
Teach them to say a loud ‘NO’ or shout for help to gather the attention of people around them. Its always safer to approach a group of people rather than a single individual in such circumstances. Permit your child to be ‘rude’ to strangers and shout loudly if they don’t feel comfortable. Are you surprised by this statement? Well, it is better to be safe than polite and vulnerable. If your child is rude to strangers do not abruptly stop him/her. Ask the reason for doing so. Maybe your child is right in doing so.
Let your kids know their safe circle
The safe circle is the people who your child can trust and confide with. It may include Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa, Granny, Sibling etc. Teach your kids to talk openly or seek help from people in their safe circle. This will help your kids know whom to talk to when you are not around. For toddlers and preschoolers, stick photos of people who belong to your child’s safe circle on cardboard to help them remember what a safe circle is.
When you spend time with your kids, make time to role-play various situations of good and bad touch and show your child how to react and be vigilant to bad situations. Small children remember role plays well and they can use the simulation in a real-life situation. Teach your children how to say NO confidently and loudly. Say it for them like (NO, I DON’T LIKE THAT!STOP) and make them practice it.
Read books on good touch and bad touch
Children remember stories well and relate them to real-life situations. Begin with books that teach about body parts. Then you can read children’s books on sex education (for older kids).
I have listed some books that you may find on Amazon. Click on the link and picture
Show them videos explaining the good and bad touch
Children learn better in an audiovisual form. Make use of age-appropriate educational videos. Please watch the video before showing it to your kids and choose an appropriate one to suit their level of understanding. Enact certain incidents and self-defence strategies with them. Children learn better with role-play.
Signs which may indicate sexual abuse in children
Children may not open up and talk about instances of sexual abuse faced by them (if any) as they may not be able to gauge the right and wrong of touch at a young age. However, they may show signs through their behaviour which can help parents to identify any possible risks or instances of sexual abuse in children. Presence of several signs given below may be an indicator of sexual abuse, though just one or two signs may not mean sexual abuse.
- Fear of certain people, individuals (even close relatives or friends) or places
- Withdrawn or secretive behaviour which is not normal in case of your child
- Sexual play which involves enacting inappropriate actions or behaviour with toys or objects
- Sexual art which depicts nakedness, obscene characters or scenes
- Bedwetting, nightmares or sleeping issues
- Change in overall behaviour which includes unexplained anguish, change in eating habits, irritability
- Use of adult words for body parts (common in school-age children through peer interaction or influence)
- Signs of physical abuse like bruises, burns, cuts on the body especially around the private parts
- Unexplained gifts or money from a ‘new friend’
- Being overly conscious about their own body and asking probing questions about sex (sex education is thus necessary for kids)
- Excessive screen time on mobile phones and attempt to hide or lock the phone (sexual abuse can be in any form)
Keep a watch for the above whether your children are very young (toddlers) or teenagers. LISTEN to your kids when they talk about their fears.
Common phrases parents use which may be harmful to kids
Many times parents say the following phrases out of good intentions but they may prove harmful for the safety and self-esteem of kids. Avoid saying these phrases-
- “Do what your (Uncle / older cousin/baby sitter) tells you. You must listen to adults.”
- “You must kiss (me/ nana/XYZ ) if you love me/him/her.
- “Why are you screaming? XYZ is right. Don’t complain.”
- “Your teacher is always right. Listen to him/her. Never say no or he/she will be displeased with you.”
- “Do whatever I tell you. No comments.
In the above phrases, the parent may unintentionally tell the child to obey, listen to adults without using their own judgement of safety.On the contrary, parents should help children to understand that they can decide whether or not they are comfortable with certain actions or people and tell parents openly about it.
Though we cannot be with our children wherever they go, it is essential to teach them life skills which will give us no regrets as parents. Be there for your children. Trust them, belief in their stories. Maybe they have something important to tell you.
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