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Why teaching personal boundaries is important for kids

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Sadly, 1 in 10 children will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday. We all want to keep kids safe from this kind of trauma. One way to keep kids safe is to teach them a few things to feel empowered to stop abuse before it even starts. Here’s what I mean.

  1. Call body parts by their proper names.

Private parts have names. These are atomically correct names of human body parts: penis, vagina, butt, etc. They are not “dirty” words and it’s never too early for kids to learn the correct names of body parts. It’s important for kids to know the proper names in case they need to tell someone that something happened to them.

  1. Talk about safe touch.

Explain what a safe and unsafe touch can mean. For example, sharing a safe touch can be when a doctor needs to look at their private parts to make sure their body is healthy, but only if a caregiver is in the room and the child is okay with it. Or when a young child needs to use the restroom, who is a safe person to help them. This will help keep things clear, instead of describing “good touch” and “bad touch” which can be confusing at a young age.

  1. Model no means no.

“Give Grandma a hug.” “Sit on Santa’s lap.” These are common things we say to kids. But, in saying it as a command, we’re teaching kids they don’t have control over who touches them. We can change it to a question. “Would you like to give your Grandma a hug or a kiss?” And then if your child says no, honor that answer. Respecting these boundaries will help teach kids they need to give consent before anyone touches them.

  1. Teach that secrets are not okay.

Keeping secrets is a tactic predators use to stop their victims from telling adults. By telling your child there can never be secrets between you both, you can help prevent that tactic from working. Share that you won’t ever get mad. You can covey that surprises are okay, but that means everyone will find out soon, but secrets are not.

These steps will help make kids feel comfortable with themselves and empowered to say “no” and speak up if there is ever any worry about abuse. Keeping an ongoing conversation about sexual abuse and personal safety from an early age will also help kids feel comfortable coming to you.

If you suspect child abuse, contact Social Services. Your call can be anonymous. Learn more about the Missouri Department of Social Services and the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. Learn more about the Kansas Department for Children and Families Protection Report Center.

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