Talking to kids about bodies, sex, and boundaries

On April 30, D2L held its very first Reddit AMA on child sexual abuse prevention in honor of Child Abuse Awareness Month. We received many great questions that will be featured in our May blog series.

QUESTION

What are the best things to tell a child growing up that can help prevent child abuse or lead to it being reported?

OUR ANSWER

From the very beginning, you can lay the foundation for protection with your children by having age-appropriate conversations with them about the topics of bodies, sex, and boundaries. Two important ways to do this are by answering questions openly and honestly and by using teachable moments to help kids understand how to apply protective knowledge.

Answering Questions

The key to answering questions by kids is to treat them with respect and meet them at their level. As kids grow and develop, they will show natural curiosity about things like body parts and reproduction. Answering questions casually and comfortably with young children paves the way for the tougher conversations down the road.

When talking to kids, always use proper names for body parts. A penis and vagina are normal parts of the body, just like an ear and an elbow. By assigning “cute” names, parents may unintentionally make these areas seem secretive or shameful. It can also cause confusion if inappropriate touch does occur.

Getting started isn’t always easy, and feeling awkward is as natural as kids’ curiosity. If you find yourself at a loss for words, there are many wonderful children’s books that help kids understand these topics.

Teachable Moments

With young children, you can use events such as bath and pool time to explain the concept of private parts. Kids may have a difficult time understanding what exactly is a “private part,” but they can easily understand that it is anything covered by a bathing suit.

As children get older, they may express interest in news items or the experiences of friends or acquaintances. Don’t be afraid to talk about these topics – it can help your children feel comfortable if they ever need to come to you for help.

You can also model respect for physical boundaries by never forcing kids to hug or sit on anyone’s lap. Teach them that affection should be freely given, and that it’s okay to speak up if they want a physical interaction (like tickling or wrestling) to stop.

Finally, tell your kids again and again that they can come to you if a situation or person makes them feel uncomfortable or uncertain. Let them know that you will help them decide how to handle the situation, you will not be mad at them, and you will always believe and support them. Keep these conversations going – by talking to them now, you are protecting them later.

For more information, visit D2L.org/TalkingTips.

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