My Body is Mine: Teaching Kids Appropriate Touch
By: Courtney Cagle
Ever wonder how to discuss what type of touching is appropriate with your kids? It’s a sensitive topic and one that should be discussed at an early age. You don’t have to start with anything extreme. Start where you feel comfortable. Kids can learn basic things when they are younger and the topics can get more and more real the older they get.
Here are 9 guidelines for teaching kids about appropriate touch:
Use real and practical terms with your kids. Kids are smarter than you think. You don’t have to baby-talk with them when discussing these sensitive topics. Kids who are two years old can understand there are parts of the body that are private to them. It’s important for parents to teach kids the real terms for their body parts. Don’t use nicknames when it comes to their anatomy (Alexander & Merhdad, 2015).
Teach them that their body is theirs and they own it. Children need to learn at a young age that their body is their own and they are in control of who touches it. They are allowed to be in control of what they do with their body because it is theirs. This involves simple actions like holding hands with someone or giving a kiss to a family member. If they don’t want to, they shouldn’t have to. For more help on discussing this, check our books, 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 3-7, 8-11, and 12+ (Alexander & Merhdad, 2015).
Keep the conversations easy. Help your kids feel comfortable discussing these topics with you by making it easy. This doesn’t mean using baby-talk. But don’t talk like a textbook either. Try to make your talks feel natural. These are serious discussions, but you want your kids to feel comfortable enough to ask questions if they have any. Chat at dinner time or in the car to increase their sense of comfort. There’s a healthy way and an unhealthy way to go about talking to your children about these serious topics. To get a better idea of how to handle these discussions, check out this video (Minocha, 2017).
Explain that they shouldn’t be touched anywhere that makes them uncomfortable. Kids need to learn not to be touched where their underwear is, but also not to be touched anywhere they don’t want to be touched. If there is an area of the body they don’t want to be touched, they shouldn’t be. The mouth can be considered a private area, so teach your children this (‘10 Tips for Teaching Kids About Good Touch Bad Touch,’ 2018).
Help them understand that they can say “no” to affection. Kids have the right to say “no” when it comes to showing affection to anyone, even family members. They need to know they are allowed to say no and that they should always tell a trusted adult if something happens that makes them have bad feelings. Help your kids understand that they can’t say “no” when you ask them to pick up their toys or do their homework, but they can say “no” when it comes to giving hugs, kisses, or other forms of affection, even to you. Many parents tell their kids to kiss or hug people who they are close to. It’s easy as a parent to force affection, but it’s essential for kids to know that they have the power to say “no” when it comes to their body. A hug or a kiss isn’t necessarily a bad touch, but it is if they don’t want it (Alexander & Mehrdad, 2015).
Have them practice speaking up when they feel uncomfortable. If children get a weird vibe from a stranger or even a family member, let them know they can tell you. Teach them it’s even okay for them to yell! If they are confident and feel that they can shout or talk to you in these situations, they are more likely to do so. It’s wonderful to help them understand that they are able to say “no” or stop, but it’s also beneficial to have them practice it. Children should act out saying “stop” or “no” to someone who does something that makes them uncomfortable. Then, they need to know to tell a trusted adult what has happened (Minocha, 2017), (‘10 Tips for Teaching Kids About Good Touch Bad Touch’, 2018).
Teach them to trust their instincts and feelings. If kids have a bad feeling, they should know to get away from that person or situation. They need to learn that they will have negative responses to bad situations. Teach kids to recognize physical stress reactions, like butterflies in their tummy or feeling dizzy or their palms getting sweaty. Tell them that they can tell a parent or a trusted adult if they feel this way. Here are some questions you might ask your child to help them better understand this (from our book, 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 3-7):
What are instincts?
What do instincts feel like?
What does that “icky” feeling mean?
Have you ever had that “icky” or “scary” feeling?
You can also ask them how they feel when they see an animal or insect they are scared of or when they see their favorite food to help them better understand what their instincts are telling them (‘10 Tips for Teaching Kids About Good Touch Bad Touch’, 2018), (Alexander & Mehrdad, 2015).
Help them understand what safe and appropriate touch is. Good touch is something that will give a safe and happy feeling. Parents’ touches are usually comforting and pleasant. Teach kids that there are times when it is necessary for their private area to be touched when they go to the doctor, as long as a parent is present, and when they take a bath or use the restroom.
Examples of good touch are hugs, kisses, high-fives, holding hands, handshakes, arm squeezes, back scratches, etc. Teach your kids good touch along with bad touch so they have a clear understanding (‘10 Tips for Teaching Kids About Good Touch Bad Touch’, 2018).
Make them feel comfortable with their body. Let kids know their body is an amazing and wonderful tool that will help them throughout their life. You want them to value and appreciate their body for what it does. Parents can teach children to value their body by setting a healthy example, talking about all the wonderful functions of their body, and by helping them take care of their body. Be the one to teach them that their body is amazing and show them it’s important to treat your body right. It all ties together, and they will recognize that (Scott, 2015).
Teaching your children about appropriate touch will empower them to stand up for themselves and their bodies. Educate and Empower Kids has a variety of resources to help you make these tough topics easy!
Podcasts featuring EEK CEO, Dina Alexander:
Lessons and Articles:
Courtney Cagle is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho graduating in Marriage and Family Studies. She loves kids and wants to help create a safe environment for all children to learn and grow.
Alexander, D., & Mehrdad, J. (2015). 30 days of sex talks, for 3-7 year-olds: Empowering your child with knowledge of sexual intimacy. Lexington, KY: Educate and Empower Kids.
(Ed.). (2018, March 27). 10 Tips for Teaching Kids About Good Touch Bad Touch. Retrieved May 11, 2018, from https://b-inspiredmama.com/10-tips-for-teaching-kids-about-good/
Minocha, A. (2017, December 06). Good Touch vs Bad Touch: 5 Ways To Educate Your Child. Retrieved May 11, 2018, from https://flintobox.com/blog/parenting/touch-good-vs-bad-educate-child
Scott, A. (2015, April 25). A Lesson About Good Touch/Bad Touch – Educate Empower Kids. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2tS1R1g
Tyagi, V. (2015, August 31). Teaching Children About Good Touch Bad Touch. Retrieved May 11, 2018, from https://www.wisdomtimes.com/blog/teaching-children-about-good-touch-bad-touch/