Friday, November 18, 2011

GOOD TOUCH/BAD TOUCH- Conversations about Boundaries and Beyond

If you begin having periodic conversations about good touch/bad touch when your children are toddlers, you'll develop an ease discussing boundaries that will carry throughout their teens. 

  • When talking with younger children, keep these discussions brief and age appropriate to avoid overwhelming kids with information beyond their capacity to comprehend.  Tell your kids if someone touches them or wants them to do something that feels uncomfortable, they should tell someone right away. If you aren't around, another adult until they can inform you--store clerks, teachers, and police officers are usually safe people.

father: You know, your body is special.
daughter: Because I'm special.
father: That's right, you're very special. Where are your private parts?
daughter: Under my bathing suit.
father: Yes. What do you know about your private parts?
daughter: Ummm...
father: No one is allowed...
daughter: No one is allowed to touch my private parts!
father: And if someone tries to touch you?
daughter: I tell you or Mom.

  • Teach children to attract attention and scare the perpetrator into retreat. Child molesters usually choose children who can be easily intimidated and manipulated into silence. They count on silence to continue their abuse.

mother: If someone tries to touch you in a bad way, I want you to yell very loudly, "STOP! You aren't allowed to touch my private parts." Can you do that for me?
daughter: Stop. Don't touch my privates.
mother: Louder. Remember you're trying to get people to hear you. "STOP! You aren't allowed to touch my private parts."
daughter: Stop! Not allowed to touch me.
mother: Louder.
mother: Excellent!

  • Include asking, whether your child has been violated. Query in a nonchalant manner and validate the response.

mother: Has anyone touched you in a way that feels uncomfortable?
son: I don't like when Grandma hugs me too tight.
mother: I'm glad you told me that. Grandma loves you and she would want to know her hugs make you uncomfortable. What should we do about this?
son: Maybe you could tell her.
mother: What if we talk to her together on Sunday when she comes for dinner?

In this scenario the mom validates her son's concerns. She empowers him by through inclusion in problem solving; and will model assertiveness and in the discussion with the grandmother. When children have the opportunity to practice establishing boundaries with family members, they are better equipped to respond if they encounter less safe situations. If kids can't assert limits with their loved ones, they won't be able to do so with unsafe people. You can start teaching these important skills with toddlers. Teach your extended family and friends to ask for hugs and kisses, rather than demanding affection. 

  • School age children are able to comprehend that "bad guys" don't look like big scary monsters, they can look like neighbors, doctors, or teachers. You can uses these conversations to discuss bullying and treating others with respect and kindness--another form of boundaries. Role playing remains an excellent means of helping kids understand these concept so they can practice setting limits in a save environment.

  • Tweens can begin to understand respect in boy/girl relationships--not to push others into doing things they don't want to do, not to do anything they feel is uncomfortable, and not to do to anything because they think "everyone" is doing so. Since you've been having regular talks about boundaries, you've already established a basis for conversing about more mature topics.

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