Why Talk about Good Touch, Bad Touch?
It is not just important to tell your child how to differentiate between good touch and bad touch, it is imperative! Gone are the days when one would just look away and walk out of the room. Gone are the days when one would cover a child’s eyes or change the channel when there was a kissing or lovemaking scene on television. Children may be aware but at the same time, half-knowledge could be dangerous. It is important to talk to them about good touch and bad touch but it is equally important to talk about respecting their own body and even others.
Cases of Child Sexual Abuse in India
Did you know two out of every three children in India are sexually abused? Yes the figure is that alarming! And out of 69% children sexually abused 54.68% were boys (Source: Study on Child Abuse India 2007 by Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India).
How to Talk to Children about Good Touch, Bad Touch?
As a storyteller, I find stories an amazing tool to put this across to children in a way that is not too much for them to handle. Stories convey the message subtly and gently. Storytelling, especially dramatisation, helps me break ice immediately with the audience. Whether it is a two-year-old or a thirteen-year-old, I always get the attention of my audience when I dramatise a story. To convey something as sensitive as ‘bad touch’, I choose an entertaining story. Usually a story about friendship and love. By the end of the session, the message is conveyed subtly and children have enjoyed a good story.
As parents, one can talk about the subject in an informal setting. I would advise picking up some books on the subject (listing them at the end of the article).
The first step is to introduce children to their body parts and also answer all their questions regarding the private body parts in a simple and easy to understand manner.
If they initiate a conversation about their body parts – Never ignore it!
Here is how I handled the situation when my child enquired about my breasts.
The other day while I was bathing my 2.5-year-old son, he suddenly caught hold of his nipples and began fiddling with them. The sight got me slightly worried but I kept my calm and waited for him to say something, if at all. I also realised he was looking at me for a reaction, after half a minute or so he asked me, “Mum what are these?”.
My first reaction was to ignore him and distract him but then I quickly debated in my head and decided to tell him. “These are your nipples and this is your chest.”, I pointed out to him.
He wasn’t quite convinced with the answer so he grabbed my breasts and said,” And these are yours mum?”
By now I wasn’t really very sure if I was on the right track, but I had chosen the track already, I had to stick to it. “Yes”, I said in a matter of fact tone.
He didn’t ask any other questions and went onto playing with his ducky and froggy in the bathtub.
This incident got me thinking and I made a promise to myself to always be honest to my son about his body and his body parts. It also opened up a floodgate of other scenarios. ‘Bad Touch’ being one. Ever since that day, I have been talking to my son, every once in a while, about his body and how he and only he has a right over it. I haven’t ever bombarded him with any information, but during bath time and potty time, or while we are reading books (we do have one on five senses – David Smells By David Shannon) I talk a little more than just his senses.
When is it the right time to talk about Good Touch and Bad Touch with my child?
I started a little late but have been talking about it every once in a while now. It is important to tell them that they own their bodies (‘your body is all yours’) and that no one has a right to touch them unless it’s okay with them.
At 2.5 years now, he is warming up to the idea that his body belongs to him and he can reserve certain parts as ‘private’. I always give him the correct name of a body part, when he asks. This will also allow him to know his anatomy well and be able to communicate to me, if he needs to, using the right words. Not only will it help children to tell parents if anyone touched them inappropriately it will also help parents a great deal to comprehend. Also when children are under the weather, aren’t we pulling our hair out? If only they could tell us what is bothering them? – Bingo! If they know it they will spell it! Telling them the correct names of their body parts will make life easier for everyone; especially them.
Respect their boundaries
Another essential lesson we need to give ourselves and our children is to respect boundaries! Every child should have the right to say no to even the simplest of things – something like holding hands with someone or having a friend hug or kiss them. They should be able to say NO if they don’t like it. As grown-ups let’s not pull a child’s cheeks and grab them in our laps – yes! they are indeed irresistible but please let’s just hold ourselves back. (Imagine someone doing that to you?)
As for me, I am no expert at parenting, but I never encourage my son to kiss or hug anyone against his will. I see parents, quite often, telling their kids to plant a kiss on an aunt’s cheek or hug a close uncle. I think one should not impose on their children to shower affection on others – let it be their choice.
No Trespassing: This is My Body (4-8 yrs)
Illustrated children’s book to help children learn about personal safety, private parts and appropriate touching. Includes a guide for parents with prevention tips for recognising possible child abuse.
Bobby and Mandee’s Good Touch Bad Touch (5-9 yrs)
Kahn, R. and Hardie, C.Illustrated book for young children. Explains what is a good touch, what is a bad touch and how it can make you feel and what to do if someone is touching you in a bad way. Includes a question and answer test, tips for parents and space to list safe adults the child can contact.
Some Parts are Not for Sharing (preschoolers)
Federico, J. K.
Illustrated children’s story book helping young children to learn about the boundaries of appropriate touching in a non-threatening way. Using a story based on sea creatures, explains how some parts of the body are not for sharing, and encourages children to tell an adult if someone asks or tries to touch them in a “private area”.
Little Monkey’s One Safe Place (preschoolers)
Edwards, R. and Winter, S.
When Little Monkey is frightened by the storm he searches all through the jungle looking for a safe place only to find that the safest place is with his mother. This is the dual language Polish/English edition.
Everyone’s Got a Bottom (3-8 yrs)
Rowley, T. and Edwards, J.
A story for young children which aims to provide parents and caregivers with a way to gently introduce the subject of self-protection.
My Body Belongs to Me (4-8 yrs)
Starishevsky, J. and Muller, S.
Illustrated children’s book which tells the story of a child who is inappropriately touched by an uncle’s friend. Aims to educate children about their bodies and appropriate/inappropriate touching through the use of non-threatening language and illustrations, and empower them to tell a parent or teacher if someone touches them inappropriately.
Uncle Willy’s Tickles (4-8 yrs)
Fictional consumer text tells a story of how harmless physical contact can cause problems for children. Offers parents a non-threatening story line for teaching children about the privacy of their bodies and their right to say no to any kind of uncomfortable touch. For children ages 4-8.
NutSpace regularly holds special Workshops on Bad Touch. Click here to organise this workshop in your school / institution.