For parents, the most difficult conversations to have with our children are those bred by necessity. Such is the case with regards to discussion about differences between Good Touch and Bad Touch. A parenting dilemma is created when we must choose between teaching our children about danger in the world and risking their exposure to peril if we keep them naïve to its presence. In either case, parental anxiety is increased by thoughts of lost innocence.
We might fear such information grows children up too fast; makes them aware of sex and sexuality at too early an age, or increases confusion about the world. In short, we prefer our children not eat from the tree of knowledge even though in this case knowledge increases power. But when parents are able to push our own anxieties aside, we are more able to have the tough conversations with our children, and although they may be troubled by what they learn, they will be prepared and comforted by open dialogue with their parents.
Ways to begin the conversation are to teach children they own their body while teaching them proper names of their anatomy. Predators often label children’s genitals in coded language. If children know proper terminology, and that body parts connected to those words are off limits, they will know when something is amiss. In addition, parents can employ The Swimsuit Rule; that is, if a swimsuit covers a body part, it is off limits.
It is also important to teach children to say “no” when they feel uncomfortable with how or where they are being touched, and also to encourage them to tell if they feel they have been touched inappropriately. Facilitating such dialogue reduces shame, and increases comfort.
In a perfect world, children would never need to learn about sexual predators, but the world is imperfect, and as we recently learned, predators exist even in the our local community. If we can tolerate short term anxiety and teach children about their bodies, and the harm that can come to it, we will do much to increase their safety in the long term.