This week, we are supporting kids to tell us about unwanted touching.
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the kinds of touch that might give us a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ feeling. In that post, we helped children understand that some kinds of touch can give us a ‘yes’ feeling, like patting a friendly cat, or having a gentle hand massage. Other kinds of touch can give us a ‘no’ feeling, like hitting, punching, biting, or being hugged when you don’t want it.
Some touch might even start out as a ‘yes’ feeling and then change to a ‘no’ feeling, like when you swing too high on a swing, or when a nice massage gets too hard.
Kids need to know what to do if they get a ‘no’ feeling or a ‘yes and no’ feeling about any touch. This can help prevent abuse, but can also help with bullying or other kinds of negative experiences.
While you are using the ‘yes’ feeling and ‘no’ feeling language, ask your child what they think they could do if they get a ‘no’ feeling about any touch. Make sure that they know the three steps they should follow:
This week’s activity:
Last week we worked on helping children understand their own feelings and linking different kinds of touch with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ feelings.This week we’ll look at feelings again and how adults and kids can practice the skills needed to talk about emotions.
With the pressures of everyday life, many of us who care for children can end up contradicting children’s feelings without even meaning to. Does this scenario sound familiar?:
Child: “I don’t want to go to kindy, I HATE kindy”
Adult: “No you don’t hate kindy! You said you loved it yesterday.”
Adult: “We are going to go visit Gran today”
Child: “I don’t like Gran, I don’t want to go”
Adult: “Don’t be silly, you love Gran! She loves you!”
Sometimes kids can express feelings which are difficult to deal with, or don’t work with everything that needs to be done to run a household. These are tricky moments and understandably adults often just need things to flow smoothly.
In these moments, adults have an opportunity to build on kids’ abuse prevention skills or to undermine them. When we tell children they don’t feel like they say they do (e.g. ‘you don’t hate Gran’ or ‘you really like kindy’), we create confusion in them and make them doubt their own feelings. Abusers often use confusion to keep children quiet by telling kids that something feels nice when it is actually confusing or scary.
In everyday life we know that feelings change, and our kids are unlikely to hate kindy or Gran forever. It’s important that we still acknowledge children’s feelings regardless of whether we think they are always true. When we take children’s feelings seriously, it helps them develop faith in their own perceptions and to know that we will believe them.
NOTE: Acknowledging kids’ feelings doesn’t mean we always have to change our plans, but it does mean that we can take these opportunities to help kids know that we respect that they know about how they feel.
There are some great resources for adults in these situations here https://www.ahaparenting.com/blog/Preventive_Maintenance_to_Keep_Your_Child_Out_of_the_Breakdown_Lane
This week’s activity:
You can explain to kids that some kinds of touches can make us feel good and we call them ‘yes’ feelings, while others can make us feel scared, or yukky and that we can call these ‘no’ feelings. Some feelings might start as a yes, but end up feeling a no like when you are on a swing and it goes too high and makes you feel scared or sick, or when someone tickles us for too long.
It is important to help kids understand that they should tell an adult about any touching which makes them have a no feeling or where there is both yes and no feelings together.
Help them understand that different people like different kinds of touch and that it is up to each person to decide what gives them a yes or no feeling (e.g. Grandma gets a no feeling from a foot massage, and I get a yes feeling. It is ok that we like different things because we ea Last week, we looked at helping children identify feelings. How did you get on with the exercises? Did you find that praising children for telling you about their feelings encouraged them to do it more? How many feelings are your children able to identify so far?
This week, we will be talking about how to help children understand the link between feelings and touch.ch get to decide if a touch gives us a yes or no feeling’).
If discussion about touching genitals comes up, remind them about the touching rules for private parts. (1. Its ok to touch your own 2. it’s not ok to touch someone else’s 3.It’s not ok for someone else to touch yours).
This week caregivers can:
Last week we focused on setting in place some touching rules for private parts so children are clear on what is and is not appropriate touch. How did that go? People sometimes find it most difficult to talk with people outside their own home about the touching rules. Did you find a way to raise it with your friends/ daycare/ extended family that you would like to share?
This week we will be looking at feelings and how to help children develop a way to understand and express their own feelings.
This can help with child sexual abuse prevention because it makes it easier for children to talk about their worried and difficult feelings. You can help children talk about worried feelings by teaching your child to put their feelings into words.
The first step is to help kids understand their own feelings and to name them.
This week, we invite caregivers to:
Welcome back! Last week we focused on helping children feel positive about their bodies and what they can do. How did you find the exercises? How did you adapt them for your child/ren?
This week, we are focusing on putting in place some touching rules for private parts. This is so that children are clear about what is and is not appropriate touch. Read on for more information …
Pre-schoolers are wonderful concrete thinkers. They like to learn the rules for things and to remind us when we break them (remember that time you forgot to put your seatbelt on right away? Or that time they reminded their grandparents to ‘make it click’?).
You can use this to your advantage by putting in place some touching rules for bodies which follow them wherever they are.
Touching rules should cover who’s allowed to touch their private parts (penis, vulva/vagina, anus) and what to do if someone breaks the rules. Touching rules can give your child the confidence to say it is not ok and to tell you if someone tries to touch their private parts (we will cover this in more detail soon, in the meantime tell them that they should tell you regardless of who has done it and you will listen).
Touching rules for private parts include:
This week caregivers can:
Ruth Davy-Fundraising Manager, HELP Auckland