Shatabhisha Chatterjee, Consultant Clinical Psychologist with MHF Kolkata, shares tips with parents on how to teach children ‘Safe and Unsafe’ touch

Teaching safe and unsafe touch can make a child sceptic about everyone, till they learn to define their instincts and stand up for themselves. Better an extra ‘no,’ than an adult convincing the child to blame self for being abused. Steps are slowly but steadily programmed into the child. Try out the following:

  • Naming body parts accurately, without embarrassment.
  • It is important not to play with the child’s body, even in infancy. Respecting the child’s privacy, taking caution when cleaning and bathing a baby is important. It is as important to cuddle, hug and pet the child as much as possible beyond that. These two are the first means of teaching the child what makes him or her feel safe. So, the training starts on a positive note with helping child feel safe about touch. To be able to identify safe touch. Only then can will they know what is unsafe!
  • Tell the child what are his / her private parts and respect his/her privacy. We start by maintaining our body privacy in front of the child. It is ok to be able to tell a child which body parts of the parents or any other person is off limits. Not changing in front of the child, redirecting the child’s need to touch mother’s breast post weaning, not to make an exhibition of the child’s nudity-however sweet or innocent it might look- even in front of close family members – are all basics to teaching a child the importance of privacy.
  • Saying a NO- striking a balance between setting rules for a child which they needs to follow and empowering the child to say a ‘NO’ emphatically, at points of discomfort, is a very tricky job. There is no absolute path, but it is important to learn to ‘listen’ to the child. Listen means not only to hear, but to understand when it is naughtiness, and when it is fear or vulnerability. Having faith in the essential goodness of the child would provide a valuable context to both parent and child to communicate.