Modern parents do not shy away from discussing uncomfortable topics with their kids, because they know it is important to empower little ones with the right knowledge to help keep them safe from harm. Teaching kids safety is essential because of rising crime against kids. Children who are able to differentiate between safe vs unsafe touch can inform their parents about any untoward behaviour they may be experiencing. Here is how you can explain good touch and bad touch to your kids and help them stay protected.
What is good touch?
Any physical contact with another person that happens with consent and feels like an expression of love and care is good touch. A pat on the head or on the back, a hug that doesn’t feel forced or coerced is good touch. This kind of physical touch makes the child feel safe and protected.
What is bad touch?
Any physical contact that happens without consent; is forced or coerced through promises of gift and other kind is bad touch. It doesn’t feel safe and can cause physical pain too. It also brings shame and guilt. Pinching or touching private body parts or being in uncomfortably close proximity can be described as bad touch.
Importance of explaining good touch and bad touch to kids
Children are innocent and are trained to obey instructions given by their elders. They cannot differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate touching and can also be easily tricked by others, through promises of gift or fear of harm. It is important to teach kids early on that everybody has a physical boundary that must not be crossed without consent. They need to know that no one except their mother or a few particular caregivers are allowed to see or touch their private parts. When kids are armed with this information, they will realise if someone is trying to molest or abuse them. They will recognize misbehavior and report it to their parents. But if they aren’t taught about this, they may be tricked into submission and may not speak of what’s happening to them, due to fear or shame.
When kids know about good touch and bad touch, they also learn to respect other people while keeping themselves safe. They become empowered to sense danger and not be lured by it. All parents want to protect their kids but it isn’t possible for them to have their kids by their side all the time. Children need to go out into the world on their own and parents must equip them with the knowledge that will help them stay safe.
Here are some good touch bad touch activities that will help you broach the subject
Kids learn best through play. So here are a few activities that you can do with kids to teach them difference between good touch and bad touch. Make sure you repeat these activities over and over again so that your kids don’t forget the lesson you are trying to teach them
1. Swimsuit game
Take the kids swimming and right before they jump into the pool tell them that all the parts covered by their swimsuit are private. No one is allowed to see or touch them, just as they are not allowed to see anyone naked.
2. NO. STOP!
Ask kids to shout No, stop together. Then, ask them to shout louder. And now, once again, tell them to shout at the top of their voices. Now tell them if anyone touches them inappropriately or does anything they don’t like, they have the liberty to shout and tell them to stop. Children are tuned to be polite to adults, but in order to keep them safe, we need to teach them that no one is allowed to cross physical boundaries with them.
3. Parts of the body
Make a song about parts of the body and touch various body parts while naming them. Ask the kids to follow you. Don’t shy away from naming the private parts as vagina and penis, as naming them correctly will help your child to identify them and realise they are important.
4. Role play
Teach kids that they do not have to engage with strangers and should not be lured into the promise of gifts. You can re-create different scenarios where you act as the stranger and show kids how they must react in all these situations.
5. Boundary game
Ask kids to stand with their legs joined and create a small circle with chalk, on the floor around them. Now tell them that this is their physical boundary and no one is allowed inside it without their consent.
Children's Books on Good Touch & bad touch
Here are some children's books about inappropriate touching that you can take help from, for teaching kids safety:
1. ABC of Body Safety and consent
This book contains a word for every alphabet that is related to body safety, privacy and consent. When kids have the appropriate vocabulary to express themselves, they’ll be better protected from harm.
2. Do You Have a Secret?
This book will help kids distinguish between good and bad secrets – those that you can keep from mumma, and those that you must never hide from her. This knowledge will help kids open up to their parents by letting them know that their parents will always provide them a safe space for their feelings.
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3. I said No!
An interactive book that helps parents and kids alike with different verbal responses they can come up with in tricky situations.
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4. Don’t touch my Hair!
This book will teach kids about self-acceptance and how it is okay to hold boundaries from others. This is an important lesson to help kids learn about good and bad touch, because it will give them the authority over their body.
5. My Body! What I say Goes!
This book empowers kids by giving them authority over their bodies and letting them choose who gets access to them and who doesn’t.
Tips & ways to explain safe vs unsafe touch
1. Don’t force your child to hug or kids others
Often parents and caregivers make the mistake of asking a child to show affection to some relative or accept hugs and kisses from them, even when he doesn’t want to. We find it impolite to refuse family and friends. But we need to realise that this confuses our children about keeping their boundaries and they feel they must give in to the needs of people they know.
2. Teach them to respect other people’s space and body privacy
Talk to your kids about privacy and what it means. Tell them that everyone is entitled to their bodies and no one can touch another without consent.
3. Discuss stranger danger
Teach your kids about strangers and why it is important to not divulge personal information about yourself to them. Tell them it is unsafe to go anywhere with strangers or eat what they offer.
4. Keep the conversation open
Never shy away from openly discussing various topics that cover sexuality or abuse with your child. If you draw shame and guilt in your chid, he will not come to you and ask his friends or go on the internet – both these places are sources of misinformation and will not be able to guide him.
5. Tell your child what to do in a dangerous situation.
Children can get so shocked by misbehavior that they find it unable to handle the situation and react. It is important to re-enact with them exactly what they are supposed to do and say if someone crosses their boundaries with them. Tell them to shout at the top of their voices and run away to a caregiver and tell him everything that happened.
Q1: Do schools teach kids about good touch and bad touch?
Some schools have sex education classes, but most don’t. It is important that parents teach their kids about good and bad touch at home to keep them safe and protected.
Q2: Should I discuss sexual abuse and child molestation with kids?
Yes, you must. It may feel uncomfortable initially but with time you will learn to not feel shy. It will also help your child have open conversations with you and he won’t feel the need to hide anything from you.