The three kinds of touches are:
- Safe touches. These are touches that keep children safe and are good for them, and that make children feel cared for and important. Safe touches can include hugging, pats on the back, and an arm around the shoulder. Safe touches can also include touches that might hurt, such as removing a splinter. Explain to children that when you remove a splinter, you’re doing so to keep them healthy, which makes it a safe touch.
- Unsafe touches. These are touches that hurt children’s bodies or feelings (for example, hitting, pushing, pinching, and kicking). Teach children that these kinds of touches are not okay.
- Unwanted touches. These are touches that might be safe but that a child doesn’t want from that person or at that moment. It’s okay for a child to say no to an unwanted touch, even if it’s from a familiar person. Help your children practice saying no in a strong, yet polite voice. This will help them learn to set personal boundaries.
Once children can name their private body parts and know about different kinds of touches, you can teach them that there is another kind of unsafe touch that is also not okay. This kind of touch is when someone older or bigger touches their private body parts. How you explain this will depend on your child’s age.
For a young child, you might say, “Another kind of unsafe touch is when a bigger person touches you on your private body parts and it’s not to keep you clean or healthy. So we have a family safety rule that it is never okay for a bigger person to touch your private body parts except to keep you clean and healthy.”
Parents should understand that the “clean” part of this rule applies to young children at an age when an adult might help them with diaper changing, going to the toilet, or bathing. The “healthy” part of this rule refers to doctor visits; for example, when the doctor gives a child a shot. An adult family member should always be present at doctor appointments. At some point during their teenage years, it will become appropriate for your children to handle their own doctor appointments.
For an older child, you might say, “Another kind of unsafe touch is when someone touches you on your private body parts and it’s not to keep you healthy. So our family safety rule about touching is that no one should touch your private body parts except to keep you healthy.”
Teach your children the following safety rules:
- It’s not okay to touch someone else’s private body parts.
- It’s not okay for someone to touch his or her own private body parts in front of you.
- It’s not okay for someone to ask you to touch his or her private body parts.
- It’s not okay for someone to ask you to take your clothes off or to take pictures or videos of you with your clothes off.
- It’s not okay for someone to show you photos or videos of people without their clothes on.