Talking to My Child about Their Body – Tips and Strategies for Keeping My Child Safe from Sexual Abuse

By Lora Probert, Director of the Daisy Tells a Secret safety video
Daisy and Clover
Daisy and Clover

Talking to a child about private body areas and inappropriate touching can make any parent feel uncomfortable and awkward, but it’s an important step in keeping your child safe.  Jennifer Parker, a prevention education specialist with a domestic violence prevention education program in Michigan, suggests that speaking with your children about their bodies should be as important as any other safety conversation, “When a parent talks to their child about good touches and bad touches, they should spend just as much time on that as they do any other safety planning.” Use these tips as a guide to assist you in discussion with your child in a relaxed, engaging and entertaining manner.

When you are ready to speak with your child, give them your undivided attention and make sure to proceed at a pace that allows time for your child to ask questions, express their thoughts and voice concerns. “Children will pick up, from the parents, what the parent’s attitudes are, whether they’re expressed in words or in body language or in tone of voice,” said Dr. Kathleen Colborn-Faller, the Director of the Family Assessment Clinic at the University of Michigan.   It is essential to be conscious of yourself and your actions during the conversation.  “It’s almost like you’re telling a story to a child, making it maybe somewhat fun, somewhat interesting,” said Sexual Assault Therapist Marcia Scott.

It’s important for you to make a positive impact when talking to your child so that he or she doesn’t become nervous or develop anxiety regarding their bodies. Being prepared and thinking it through will help communicate the message in an affirmative manner.  When speaking, it’s best to:

  • Use a calm voice,
  • Keep the information simple,
  • Have a sense of humor and,
    most importantly, be relaxed and sensitive as young children can easily become ashamed, confused or reluctant to participate in the conversation.

During the conversation, it’s important to teach your child the correct anatomical terms and not nicknames for body parts. “Many times parents will use, slang terminology for different areas of the body, but just as we talk about our ears, our nose, our hands, there’s no difference to talk about the private parts; the breasts, the penis, the vagina,” said Dr. Mary Jo Malafa, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at St. Joseph Mercy.  If anything happens to your child, having the correct terminology will allow them to accurately express to you or other trusted adults and possibly law enforcement, exactly what happened, with no confusion.  Otherwise, “A lot of times, the legal system can dismiss it, and not take what they’re saying seriously,” said Marcia Scott.

Remember that open communication between you and your child is vital when it comes to learning about inappropriate touching.  Your child should feel comfortable talking to you about their bodies without embarrassment. He or she should understand that when it comes to their body, they have the right to ask questions and voice their opinions. The ultimate goal of the conversation is that parents need to give children the message that their bodies are something to be proud of, that their bodies are their own, and that they should feel comfortable about themselves and their bodies.

For more information, visit the Daisy website.