Child Abuse Awareness: Body Safety Rules

Child Abuse Awareness: Body Safety Rules

We prepare for many things when there are young ones in our lives. As parents, caregivers, and concerned adults, we aim to keep children safe from harm. So, we have safety rules. For example, we teach kids to wear a seat belt in the car and use a helmet when riding a bike. But when it comes to abuse, many of us don’t know how to talk about it.

It’s hard to know when and how to talk about body safety and consent with the children in your life. The good news is you can start early with child-friendly language. These guidelines can help children identify safe and unsafe situations, understand their body autonomy, and know when to seek help from a trusted adult.

Simple Body Safety Rules to Teach Kids

You can start early when teaching kids about body safety. In fact, toddlers and young children can learn and practice all the safety rules below. Darkness To Light has a great quick reference guide on developmentally appropriate messages.

1. Say “No” to Unwanted Touches

It’s important for children to know that they have the right to say “no” to any touch that makes them uncomfortable or scared. Let them know that their body belongs to them, and they can decide who can touch them and how.

2. Identify Safe and Unsafe Situations

Children need to learn how to recognize when they are in a safe or unsafe situation. Tell your child that it’s okay to talk to a trusted adult about any concerns they have and that they should never keep secrets about touches or events that make them feel uncomfortable or scared.

3. Use Proper Names for Body Parts

By teaching your child the proper names for all body parts, including the genitals, you can help them communicate effectively about their bodies and any concerns they may have.

4. Establish Boundaries

Encourage your child to establish boundaries with others. Let them know they can say “no” to hugs, kisses, or any other physical contact that makes them uncomfortable.

5. Seek Help from a Trusted Adult

Teach your child that they can always seek help from a trusted adult if they feel scared or uncomfortable. It’s important for them to know that they have people in their life who care about them and will listen to them.

Body Safety: A Practice Guide for Teaching Safety Rules to Children from The Lighthouse Children’s Advocacy Center is a valuable resource. The guide includes summarized information about safety rules in child-friendly language. It also includes some coloring sheets and activities to do with kids.

Talk About Body Safety Early and Often

Remember, it’s never too early to start teaching your child about body safety rules. By revisiting the topic regularly and using age-appropriate language, you can help create a safe and supportive environment where your child feels comfortable asking questions and sharing concerns.

What Should I Do if a Child Discloses Abuse?

If a child discloses that they have experienced abuse or maltreatment, listen carefully to what they say and respond appropriately. The first thing to remember is that it might have been difficult or scary for a child to confide in you. Tell them you are glad they came to you and note the details they share about the person or people involved and what happened.

Who to Call to Report Abuse

If the child is in immediate danger or at risk of further harm, call 911 right away.

Otherwise, report the abuse to your local child protection agency. If in doubt, the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 422-4453 can help you identify how to make a report.

To report a suspicion of child abuse in Minnesota, contact your county or tribal child protection agency.

Remember that it is not your job to investigate or confront the alleged abuser. Simply gather the necessary information about what happened and who the alleged abuser is, and report it to the appropriate authorities.

Taking these steps can help ensure that the child is protected and receives the necessary support and resources.

Learn More During Child Abuse Awareness Month

Child abuse awareness and prevention starts with creating safe environments for children. Whenever you can, talk to them about their bodies and any concerns they have. By teaching your child about body safety rules, you give them words to talk about their bodies and promote their right to safety. Here are some additional resources you can use as you have these conversations with the young ones in your life.