How to talk to your kids about abuse

 

Talking about abuse can be a difficult subject to breach with children.  However, like many important discussions, it’s not something to wait to talk about until it comes up on its own.  In fact, by then it may be too late.

Getting Started…

Children as young as four years old can understand the basic concepts of good touches, bad touches and confusing touches. These young children can also understand the definition of sexual abuse and are not afraid of the words that send a chill up the spines of adults.

It’s so important, when talking about abuse with your children, even young ones, use the correct terms for the things you are describing.  Doing this helps create an open discussion about the topic and can help them understand how to talk about it if they experience abuse. 

So, please mark on your calendar to sit down with each of your children to talk about these three things:

1)     Explain the three different types of touch

  • Good touch
  • Bad touch
  • Sexual abuse touch

Good touches are those touches that make us feel happy, safe and loved. Most of the touch we get is good touch.

Bad touches are those touches that hurt us; they feel like an “ouch.” Some examples are kicking, hitting and biting.

Sexual abuse touch is defined as "forced or tricked touch of private body parts." The key words are forced and tricked.

As you talk with your children, clarify that a force is when someone makes you do something you don't want to do or don't understand.  Explain that a trick is when someone lies to you, fools you, pretends or calls something a game, that isn't a game, so they can touch your private body parts or have you touch theirs. Tell your children that sexual abuse is confusing because it doesn't necessarily hurt; the touch can feel good, but it is not okay.

2)     Teach your child to say NO

Children need to know that they can say NO to any touch that they do not want—even if the person touching them is an adult or someone they know. Teach them that sexual abuse is against the law and children are not responsible when someone breaks the law and sexually abuses them.

Teach your child that they have the right to trust their own feelings and to ask questions when they feel uncomfortable or confused by someone's behavior. Talk about times when they may have had an anxious feeling (forgetting homework, losing something, frightened by a loud noise, etc.). Discuss the importance of paying attention to our feelings in situations when we are feeling uncomfortable.

3)     Tell them it’s okay to speak up

Teach your child that when abuse happens, it’s never the child’s fault and that it is okay to break promises they make about abuse. 

Explain that it is very important to tell a trusted adult if someone sexually abuses them or hurts them in any way and that they can tell another person if they are not believed. Discuss with your child that telling about sexual abuse can be very difficult, but that the abuse won't stop until they tell someone.

As you talk with your child, help them identify trustworthy adults in their lives.  Ask them who they feel comfortable talking to about personal things and whether that person is a safe and trustworthy adult.

Keep the conversation going

As you talk with your children about abuse, keep in mind that you may need to revisit the discussion as they get older.  Talking about it each year will help reinforce these safety guidelines.  For more on discussing abuse with your children, visit www.speakupbesafe.org

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