Speaking with your children about body safety might be intimidating, but it’s critical to their well being.
There’s no perfect age for speaking with your children about body safety. Instead, it should be part of an ongoing dialogue from their early years through their teens. Engage your children, talk with them about their bodies, show that you’re available to answer questions, and always create an atmosphere of trust. The following tips are not meant to be a complete answer, but are some general guidelines for speaking with your child.
DO talk with your child at a quiet time, without distractions, so that you have their attention. Remember the importance of the subject, but be yourself.
DO talk about which parts of their bodies are considered “private” and which are not private, using whatever terms are common within in your home.
DO talk about who CAN touch your child’s private parts, such as a doctor as part of an exam or parents and caregivers who might assist with toileting or bathing. Distinguish between those normal activities and inappropriate touches.
DO talk about how it is not okay for anyone else to touch their private parts, including other children. Inquire in an open manner whether anyone else has touched them and who that is.
DO talk about what your child should do if someone touches them, who they should tell, and where they can go. Make sure they know they can always talk to you, no matter what has happened.
DO emphasize that it’s never safe to go into another person’s home or car without your knowledge. Make it clear this includes neighbors, friends, family members and acquaintances.
DO become familiar with the signs of sexual abuse, such as changes in behavior or sleeping habits.
DO show support for whatever your child tells you. Try not to show that you’re upset as their truthful disclosure and emotional recovery depend on your love and support.
If you suspect abuse bring your concerns to the attention of the appropriate authorities: the Division for Children Youth and Families (1-800-894-5533) and/or your local police department. Ask for help, get support for yourself, and let your child know you are proud of them for talking to you. Feel free to contact your local Child Advocacy Center or the Granite State Children’s Alliance with further questions. Find a center.
DO NOT ask direct questions, such as “Has Uncle Bob ever touched you?” Inquire in general about different people that your child is in contact with.
DO NOT use dolls or stuffed animals to demonstrate. This can invite “magical thinking” into the scenario as children commonly engage in pretend play with these toys. If your child does disclose something of concern, avoid the temptation to ask direct or leading questions.
Click here to download “Talking with your Child about Body Safety”, a helpful pamphlet from the Granite State Children’s Alliance.