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Teach Kids about "Safe" Touch with this 5-Step Strategy

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 02, 2021

Teach Kids about "Safe" Touch with this 5-Step Strategy

Lessons about inappropriate touch are very important because it teaches children to assert control over their bodies. What’s more, it also encourages them to respect other people’s boundaries. Finally, when you teach kids about safe and unsafe touch you could help prevent physical and sexual abuse from happening.

The Role of Family in Child Development and Wellbeing

5 Tips to Teach Kids about Safe and Unsafe Touch

Start Early

It’s natural for parents find it difficult to initiate the conversation about body safety with their kids.

Initially, the reason would be “They’re too young to understand,” then, it could be “It might be inappropriate,” until it becomes “It seems awkward”.

The risks of not giving children lessons on safe and unsafe touch include making them vulnerable to sexual abuse.

This is exactly why experts urge parents to start early with body safety lessons.

When your child turns 3 years old, you can begin teaching them about safe and unsafe touch.

Preschool Stage: Nurturing Cognitive Development

Use Appropriate Names for their Private Body Parts

Did you know that one of the reasons why children find it difficult to open up about sexual abuse is because they do not have the appropriate words to express their concerns?

This is why, when teaching them about inappropriate touch, it’s important to normalize the names of the private parts.

Just like how you say “feet,” or “tummy”, you also need to use the correct anatomical terms for their genitals.

To make things easier, you can consider the following tips:

  • Use the bathing suit method to help them identify what their private parts are. Explain that the parts covered by the swimsuit are their private body parts.
  • Emphasize that we treat our private parts “special”, hence we keep them covered.
  • Give them the names of their private parts during opportune moments such as a doctor’s visit or during bath time.
  • Try not to sound awkward when talking about private parts. Kids pick up on signals when their parents feel awkward or embarrassed and they may feel the same, too.

teach kids about safe touch

Teach them about Safe, Unsafe, and Unwanted Touch

It’s important to let children know that there are three kinds of touch: safe, unsafe, and unwanted touch.

Safe Touch

  • Explain that safe touch is the kind that make them feel protected, loved, cared for, safe, comfortable, happy, and warm.
  • Some examples of safe touch is brushing someone’s hair, kissing them goodnight, buckling them in their seat, and patting them on the back in a friendly manner.
  • Don’t forget to mention that some safe touches might hurt, like receiving vaccine shots or when you remove a splinter.

Unsafe Touches

  • Explain that unsafe touch will make them feel confused, scared, embarrassed, uncomfortable, hurt, or angry.
  • Some examples of unsafe touch is when they accidentally push their siblings down, an adult grabbing a child harshly due to anger, kicking, or punching.

Unwanted Touch

  • Explain to your kids that an unwanted touch seems safe, but it makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Precise examples are when someone bigger touches their private parts, or being forced to touch someone else’s private parts.
  • Finally, emphasize that unwanted touch is also considered unsafe.

teach kids about safe touch

Younger kids may not be able to understand unwanted touch right away, so you can start with just safe and unsafe touch lessons.

Help them realize that what sets these two kinds of touch apart are their feelings about them.

One way to teach kids about safe and unsafe touch is to give them examples they can relate to. You can say:

“Lynne, when Andrew accidentally pushed you, and then John helped you up and put his arm around you, which one was the safe touch?”

Emphasize that They Are the “Boss of their Body”.

Emphasize that they have control over their bodies. And only they can choose who touches their body and how. Also, stress that they can exercise that control over anyone, even with relatives.

Here are some tips to help kids understand that they are the boss of their body:

  • Demonstrate how to assert control. For instance, say: “I don’t like it when you jump on me. Please stop.”
  • Impose rules among siblings, like “If your brother says stop when you tickle him, then you need to stop.’
  • Likewise, show that you respect their need for privacy or their dislike to be touched. Offer words such as: “It seems like you don’t want to cuddle right now. Alright.”
  • Remind them that they don’t need to give nor receive hugs and kisses from relatives if they don’t want to. Tell them they can say no.
  • Ask for your relatives’ support. Inform them that you are teaching your kids the value of being in control over their body.

Practice the “No, Go, Tell” Approach

Finally, practice “No, Go, Tell” with your kids.

“No, Go, Tell” is a simple way to teach kids about what to do if they don’t feel safe with someone’s touch. Instruct them to:

  • Say “No” loudly so that the other person will hear them.
  • “Go’ or run away from the person and go straight to the people who make them feel safe.
  • “Tell” you or a trusted adult about what happened, so that you can keep them safe.

Final Reminders

For older kids who can understand these dangers more, consider giving them specific scenarios that require the “No, Go, Tell” approach.

You can tell them that it’s not okay when:

  • Someone touches your private parts and it’s not because the person wants to keep you safe and healthy. This is important because doctors and parents also touch children’s private parts.
  • A person touches their private parts in front of you.
  • A person asks you to touch their private parts.
  • Someone asks you to remove your clothes and then take photos and videos of you.
  • A person shows you photos or videos of themselves without their clothes on.

Please remember that the “Tell” part of the “No, Go, Tell” is crucial. According to experts, secrecy is almost always a part of physical or sexual abuse. And it keeps parents and guardians from taking the necessary steps to intervene or help rehabilitate a child, should any form of abuse happen.

Learn more about parenting and child safety, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 02, 2021

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