How parents should talk to their kids about abuse

We know it won’t be easy, and it surely won’t be comfortable, but talking to your children about child abuse is necessary as children grow up.

Abuse is so prevalent that a report of is made every 10 seconds in the United States totaling 3.6 million referrals each year that involve around 6.6 million children. That is not an insignificant amount.

It is important to talk to your children to let them know that certain areas should not be touched by anyone, to decide who is a safe person to speak to in case of a threat, and to remind them children always have choices. Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe, a research-based, prevention education curriculum, teaches ‘5 Safety Rules’ to protect children:

  • It’s MY Body
  • Ask an Adult If I’m Safe
  • I have Choices
  • Tell Someone
  • It’s NEVER my fault

While we can’t tell you what exact age will be right for what parts of the discussion, the Washington Post does have some advice on approaching the topic.

  • Start talking about their bodies early.
    • Teaching the appropriate names of body parts and modeling respect for their body will let them know their body is normal and creates open dialogue so they are not ashamed of asking questions.
  • Start talking about the basics of sexual reproduction when children are around five-years-old.
    • Without getting too detailed, talking about where babies come from in a truthful manner will build trust with your child
  • Model an environment of calmness, openness, and safety to ask questions.
    • Be sure to express to your child they can come to you with any question and they should never be ashamed to ask you something. By being open, you give your children the confidence to come to you over time about a variety of issues.
  • Protect children from pornography.
    • In our digital age, it’s very hard to prevent your child from accessing information online. However, you should talk with the parents of your child’s friends to keep an eye out for explicit images and information. This is also an opportunity to discuss sexting – text messages with explicit content – and how it’s not appropriate for children.
  • When it comes to prevention, it’s a matter of trust.
    • Parents, trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your child at the house of one of their friends – don’t do it. Children are much more likely to be abused by someone they know than a stranger.

In the end, experts say, it comes down to listening to your child.

“Really listen to your child and trust he or she is telling the truth. Too often parents think their child couldn’t possibly be abused, especially by someone they know. If your child comes forward, make sure they know for certain that you’re on their side and assure them you’ll get them help and bring their perpetrator to justice,” says Stacie Rumenap, president of Stop Child Predators.


If you ever have a question about abuse or wish to learn more, please visit or call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD) to speak with one of our certified crisis counselors.