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Talking to your child about personal safety

Nisha Daniel

Children’s saftey is a hot button subject in these perilous times. All parents need to talk about body awareness with their children. Here are some basic child safety precautions all parents must observe.

Speak frankly
Tell your child that some people can touch us in ways we don’t like. Some people also hurt us by touching us in wrong ways. To be safe, they need to accept ‘safe touch’ and run away from ‘unsafe touching.’

Name your child’s genital parts, without any embarassment. You could do this during a bath or in a family discussion in the drawing room or dining table.

‘Your body is yours’
Discuss how every individual’s body belongs to her, and we like using it in certain ways — like hugging mummy, or horsing around in the drawing room or garden. There are some things we don’t appreciate, like being pushed, or tickled for too long.

Warn them there are people who might touch them inappropriately which could make them feel uncomfortable. When that happens, they should object and express their dislike for that kind of touching.

Inform children that even adults do wrong things, and some adults try to hurt children by touching them inappropriately.

Teach children about their personal biology and private parts of the body. All children should know there are four zones for girls and three for boys that no one must touch.

  1. Lips
  2. Chest (for girls)
  3. Genitals
  4. Buttocks

Inform them forthrightly that if anyone tries to touch any of these zones, especially while they are alone, that it’s an ‘unsafe touch.’ Use a doll to highlight these zones.

If someone touches any part of the body in a way that makes them feel odd, queasy or dirty, they should object, because it could be unsafe.

When in danger
Your child should know to take these three steps when someone touches them inappropriately.

  1. Say ‘No’ or say something to let the person know you don’t like it.
  2. Run away from the spot. Scream if she experiences danger.
  3. She should inform an adult she trusts such as a parent, teacher, relative or friend’s mother.

Safe touch
Children should know it’s okay for mummy or daddy to touch the ‘unsafe’ zones while giving them a bath or to examine it when it hurts. A doctor may also check, with a parent present.

No secrets
Teach children that no matter how much a person demands secrecy, it’s okay to tell mummy or daddy. Your child should know you care about her safety and she should know any time someone behaves in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable or confused, you’ll be there for her.

Repeatedly remind children to never accept sweets or drinks from strangers. The same rule applies when they are with a known person who makes them uncomfortable.

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