Search This Blog

Monday, May 21, 2012

Talking to Our Young Kids about Good Touch, Bad Touch (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

      This is a concerning topic for many parents with young children.  The two most common questions that come to parents’ mind are probably: “When do we talk about this?” and “How do we talk about this?”  We, as parents, get anxious even when we think about talking about good touch and bad touch.  Why is this so?

     Some of the contributing factors  to our uneasiness may be the following. First, our culture views sex has a taboo subject to talk about even with adults, and certainly a no, no with kids. One of the underlying anxiety behind this may be that we, as parents, do not want to give our kids “any ideas” about sex in hopes that they will not engage in it early on. Well, we know how this is not an effective strategy if you simply look at the statistics surrounding teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and physical and sexual abuse toward children.

     Second, we get anxious because we do not how talk about it. Things like what kind of language to use so our kids can understand what we are trying to say, how to determine if it is the right time, and how to answer their questions adequately may be some of the worries.  Lastly, some parents do not want to talk about it because they do not feel it is necessary or want to instill fear in their child. Parents may have concerns about their child “losing their innocence” simply by talking about it.  

     Whatever the case may be, it is very important to talk about it especially with technological advances making it easier to access our kids. Just consider the GPS feature that is activated on our mobile devices that can pinpoint your exact location at any given time.  This is a safety issue just like stranger danger and fire safety. Not talking about it can be detrimental.  When to talk about it is easy: as soon as they have language skills.  How to talk about it is a whole new ball game! Here are some tips that may be helpful in talking to your kids.

5 Tips When Talking about Good Touch, Bad Touch:

1.     Empower them. Make sure they know that they are in charge of their body. Use a powerful message like “I am the boss of my body!” This is also important so they understand that they need to care of their body to keep it healthy.

2.    Teach Functions of Body Parts. Talking about what feet, hands, mouth, etc. are used for is a good starting point with toddlers. For example, feet are for walking not for kicking, or hands are for playing/hugging not hitting. You can play a game about the functions where you say “A hand is for _____” and then you pause so they fill in the blank. A simple question/answer game would be appropriate too.

3.    Talk about Feelings. As a therapist, how can I exclude this part? Introduce to your child simple feelings like happy, excited, sad, anger, embarrassed, and ashamed. Again, play games to help them understand the different feelings.  You can show pictures, act out feelings, etc. Just use your imagination so your child understands the different feelings people have in different situations.

4.    Link the Touch with Feelings. Okay, because we are talking about very young children, this is the only time I would categorize feelings as “good” or “bad.”  Otherwise, feelings are either “comfortable” or “uncomfortable.”  Since this is an abstract concept, let us make it easier on our kids and ourselves in talking about these complex issues.  For example, when someone uses their hands to hug us, does it feel “good” or “bad?”  “How does it feel when someone uses their hands to hit us?”

     Furthermore, you would want to add the component of stranger versus someone we know doing the touching like hugging, kissing on cheek/forehead, etc.  Likewise, you would want to talk about how nobody is allowed to touch the private parts unless mommy or daddy is helping you wash up or change diapers. Again, reminding them that they are the boss of their own body is important to do even when it comes to people we know. Sadly, sex offenders tend to be people we know. Take a look at your state’s Sex Offender Registry and you will be shocked with what you find!

5.    Keep the communication path open. This refers to all communications, not just about touch. Your child needs to know that they can come to you if they are ever victimized or just have questions about touch.  Ignoring or discounting their concerns and feelings is detrimental to their mental well-being for a very long time. Along the same lines, never, ever, ever, blame the victim!  When you have a strong foundation for communication, your child will come to you when they need you. As a parent, it is in our hands to help or hinder this communication.     


  1. Thank you for this timely post! I admit that I am filled with anxiety every time I read an article about children being abused. As a mother of a preschooler, I want to strike a balance of teaching my son to be wary of some people without taking away his friendly nature. These tips are very helpful and alleviate some of my anxiety. Thank you!

    1. @Trin: You are very welcome! I'm glad this is helpful. If you are anxious, that means you care. It's essential for parents to feel some anxiety when it comes to our kids. Keep up the good work!