Parents often ask me how to talk with children about sexual abuse prevention without scaring them. I recommend teaching kids prevention through body safety. Children provide us with teachable moments each and every day for reinforcing body-safety concepts in an age-appropriate, non-threatening way.
Just think about all the questions kids ask from “How does the baby get into the belly?” to “Why is my penis upside down?” Each one of these questions is an opportunity to teach your child about the human body, sexual development, and physical safety. The more age-appropriate information children have, the more confidence they have in maintaining boundaries and dealing with difficult situations.
Here are two examples of how to turn a child’s question into a teachable moment and reinforce a body-safety rule.
Child: “Daddy, is that your tail?”
Father: “No, sweetie, it’s not my tail; it’s my penis. Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina. Your vagina belongs to you and no one is allowed to touch your vagina except when we’re cleaning it in the tub or you’re at the doctor’s office. And remember your Mom or I will be with you at the doctor’s office.”
It’s good to reinforce body-safety rules. You don’t just teach “Look both ways before you cross” one time; you have to repeat it. The same is true with body-safety rules.
Question: “Mommy, why are you bleeding in the toilet?”
Answer: “Once a month a woman’s body gets ready to make a baby. When a baby is growing inside a woman’s uterus, the blood feeds the baby and helps it grow. When there’s not a baby growing, the blood comes out of her uterus and into the toilet. This is called a period. It’s normal and Mommy’s OK. When you’re a woman, you’ll have a period too.”
It’s normal to feel a little uncomfortable, but the more you teach body safety, the easier it gets. In your responses, be honest, positive, and brief. Check out Parenting Safe Children on Facebook where parents are discussing teachable moments.