There’s are so many conversations parents dread having with their children and one of them is the good touch/bad touch talk.
It’s not that we don’t want our children to be safe – far from it! It’s just hard to imagine the unthinkable happening to our little ones and the fact that the potential is there requires this specific conversation.
But have it we must because the idea of good touch and bad touch is a very important concept that we need to educate our children about.
Not sure how to go about it? Here are some tips for teaching good touch and bad touch to your children:
1. Teach Body Responsibility
You can start teaching your child how to be responsible for their body as young as the age of two by explaining to them that their body belongs to them and they can keep it healthy and safe.
This doesn’t have to be a serious one-on-one conversation (good luck having one of those with a two-year-old) but you can make this point incidentally throughout the day.
For instance, when getting in the car, you can explain that we use seatbelts to keep our bodies safe. Or, when serving supper, you could emphasize that we eat vegetables to keep our bodies healthy.
When they start understanding that they are responsible for their body, they will start to develop a sense of ownership for their bodies and feel comfortable setting boundaries.
This will empower your child to speak up when someone else, such as a peer or sibling, is doing something hurtful or something they do not like.
2. Emphasize Body Autonomy
Do you have at least one Christmas photo where you are crying your eyes out on Santa’s knee? Do you remember why you were scared?
It’s probably because you were forced to come into close contact with a complete stranger.
While we want to encourage social skills with our children, such as chilling with Santa or hugging an unfamiliar relative, it’s important to let your little ones maintain control over their bodies.
You should never coerce affection or any physical contact with anyone, even friends and family members. Kids are allowed to be uncomfortable at different times for different reasons – it’s never personal and shouldn’t be taken that way.
Let them make the choices. They don’t want to hug Uncle Jim? Maybe they’re more comfortable with a high-five. Your little one doesn’t want to sit on Santa’s knee? See if they will stand next to Santa instead.
When you force or coerce your child to engage in any sort of physical touch with someone else, you are basically telling them that others don’t need permission to touch them. So, if a bad touch happens, it must be okay.
3. Use the Proper Words for Body Parts
I’m not sure if this story is true but it’s highly likely to happen:
A little girl is taught to call her vagina a “cookie”. One day, she goes to school and tells the teacher that an adult touched her cookie.
Thinking the little girl was referring to food, the teacher thought nothing of it and dismissed the comment.
Well, I don’t think I have to tell you the ending.
It can be hard to hear “grown-up” and mature words such as vagina and penis coming from the mouth of babes, but it’s crucial in helping your child identify the areas of their body that should not be touched by other people.
Teaching your child doesn’t have to be a sit-down educational process. Simply label the body parts correctly while your child is having a bath, getting dressed or during diaper changes.
4. Talk About “Good Touches” and “Bad Touches”
You can explain good touches and bad touches to your child but it’s important to demonstrate the difference so they can better understand that concept.
You can explain that good touches are caring touches, like when you give your little one a hug after they have fallen down and hurt themselves.
Bad touches, however, hurt not only the body but feelings as well. These are feelings that may make your child feel scared or yucky.
Make sure your little one understands that bad touches are not okay, even if it’s a friend or family member.
You should also teach your child the swimsuit rule. This means that no one should touch or look at the parts covered by a swimsuit – these are private parts.
Keep in mind that most predators will not start touching children in sensitive and private areas so it’s also important to help your child recognize ANY touch or space intrusion that is unwanted and uncomfortable.
Children can be very literal so if you try to enforce the swimsuit rule on its own, they will likely accept any touch outside of the swimsuit zone even if it doesn’t feel right.
If you’re not sure how to approach this, you can always role play with your little one. Ask them how they would feel if you gave them a hug versus if a stranger on the street gave them a hug – whatever age-appropriate and non-frightening scenarios you can think of to talk about.
5. Encourage Communication
Keep in mind that, as your child grows and develops, this conversation will change.
As children are exposed to social media, peers and a greater understanding of their bodies and sexuality, the questions they have will evolve.
Don’t be surprised if the basic preschool level information you’ve provided is suddenly not enough and your child is seeking more information.
Encourage them to ask questions and provide the best age-appropriate information you can.
By keeping communication open and honest about this topic, you’re also creating a safe space for your child should they experience a bad touch or are confused about something that happened to them.
This also gives them the power to trust their feelings and recognize when bad touches are happening.
You should never judge their questions or concerns – listen to what they have to say and support their feelings.
6. Additional Resources
Because this is such an important topic, many parents may be hesitant to address it because they are unsure of exactly how to do so.
Luckily, there are many great resources out there that can help you help your child navigate the concept of good touches and bad touches.
Here are a few you should check out:
It’s My Body – Lory Freeman
I Said No! – Kimberly King
Do You Have a Secret? – Jennifer Moore-Malinos
Amazing You – Gail Saltz
Not Everyone Is Nice – Frederick Alimonti
While most schools teach “stranger danger” and other important concepts, it’s your job as a parent to make sure your child understands how these ideas work in the real world.
What Are Your Thoughts?
How did you approach this topic with your child? Did we miss any important tips?
Share your thoughts in the comments below – we would love to hear them!