Teaching Safe Touch and Unsafe Touch to Children
Written by: Malak Tariq
Parents play a major role in developing a child’s personality.
A child as young as six months old can understand emotions; be it happiness, anger, frustration or even fear. Where the logical brain has not developed yet, the emotional brain has. Parents need to focus on the emotions of their children.
One important aspect where parents need to be vigilant - is how their child feels around someone. Do they feel safe or unsafe?
A discussion or lesson that is rather ignored or brought up way too late is Sex Education and Awareness about Predatory Behaviour.
The responsibility of educating the children about these key aspects falls upon parents first and not teachers. Parents need to be educated on these issues. Parents who take the initiative to teach their children about safe and unsafe touch actually are protectors in true form.
Here are some ways in which parents can begin conversations about safe and unsafe touch:
1. Teach children the correct names of all their different body parts, including their private body parts. Learning correct (anatomical) words for private body parts gives children the words to use and helps them know that it is okay to talk about those body parts.
2. Parents can also explain that the parts of their child's body covered by a swimsuit are their private body parts for a basic introduction.
3. Let your children know that they are in control of who touches their bodies and how. Teach them to stop anyone who makes them uncomfortable.
4. Likewise, immediately respect if they wish not to be touched in certain ways.
5. As you supervise your child’s interactions, make it clear that they need to stop tickling or touching if a sibling says "Stop!" This will teach them the importance of consent.
6. In addition, do not insist that your children give or receive hugs or kisses from relatives and friends if they do not wish to.
7. Some relatives might expect a hug from children every time they see them. If your child experiences discomfort, stop relatives politely. Tell relatives that you are teaching your children to be in control of their bodies as part of teaching them safety about touching, so they are not offended by your child’s behaviour.
It needs to be noted that most of the time the abuser doesn’t go directly and touch the child on their private parts. Most of the awareness campaigns and videos focus on the touch on private parts as bad touch and all the other touches as good touch - that necessarily might not be the case. For e.g. a child is supposed to, take a touch on the cheek like a good touch”, explained Sex educator Swathi Jagdish.
Swathi is an educator, trainer and influencer based in South India. She conducts workshops and engages with people via social media on a regular
basis regarding the issues of sex education, parenting, lactation and more under the pseudonym Maya’s Amma.
Platforms like Maya's Amma can educate parents on a regular basis about imparting awareness to kids about safe and unsafe behaviour along with reclaiming agency over their bodies.
And for the child to understand and trust their emotions when something as horrible as abuse happens, parents need to help them understand everyday emotions well. Other than touch, it is important parents talk about any unsafe behaviour. Parents need to be Pals so that the child can confide in them without any second thoughts.