When your little one is ready to strike out on his own in the world -- or, at least, ready to participate in activities where you're not present -- it's time to learn about safe and unsafe touch. Don't make the mistake of skipping over the lesson because you're afraid of scarring your little one for life. Instead, teaching the principles of touch in a way that is easy and nonthreatening for your child. He'll get the tools to react if there's ever an issue and you'll have a little extra peace of mind when your little one is flying solo with caregivers, other children or at preschool.
1. Labeled Anatomy
One of the mistakes that parents sometimes make is using euphemisms or being broad with the anatomy. Unfortunately, while this might ease your embarrassment at home, it can complicate matters if your little one is unsure when and where touching is appropriate. Do your best to teach your child the correct terms for his anatomy by drawing a diagram of the body and labeling all of the body parts together. That way, your child learns the correct words and if he ever is touched inappropriately, he'll be better equipped to stop and report the touching.
2. Teddy's Touch
Utilize a teddy bear or other comfortable toy to show the difference between safe and unsafe touch, especially when it involved the privates. For instance, you could show your child that when you help teddy use the potty or get dressed, it's safe touch. However, if the touch makes teddy feel sad or upset or someone asks teddy to keep it a secret, it's an unsafe touch and teddy should tell an adult quickly. Showing your child on a toy makes the idea less scary and more matter-of-fact.
3. Tell a Toy
Some children are afraid to tell their parents about unsafe touch because they're afraid of getting in trouble or because the predator has warned them not to tell. In this case, try an activity where you use a toy as the go-between for you and your child. Practice by pretending as though the toy is asking you a question while your child listens in, such as "I wonder if it's OK for a doctor to see my underwear?" You can then answer the question calmly. Your child may be more inclined to ask his questions to a toy rather than to an adult, but you'll still be able to have a frank conversation about touching.
4. What Would You Do
Once you've discussed the difference between safe and unsafe touch, run a few scenarios by your newly-educated tot so you can see if he's grasped what should be done in certain situations. Ask your child what he should do if another adult asks him to keep a secret, another child uses unsafe touch or a type of touch makes him feel bad inside -- role playing might also help with this exercise. You can then talk about different ways to deal and what you would do as a parent so your child is well-practiced in how to react in different scenarios.
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