Tips on how to talk to your children about body safety

There’s no perfect age for speaking with your children about body safety. Instead, it should be part of an ongoing dialogue from their early years through their teens. Engage your children, talk with them about their bodies, show that you’re available to answer questions, and always create an atmosphere of trust. The following tips are not meant to be a complete answer, but are some general guidelines for speaking with your child.

If you suspect abuse, bring your concerns to the attention of the appropriate authorities:

  • Call the MA Department of Children & Families Helpline at 800.792.5200
    or contact your local police department.
  • Feel free to contact Children’s Cove at 508.375.0410 for more information.
  • Ask for help, get support for yourself, and let your child know you are proud of them for talking to you.

The DO’s

  • DO talk with your child at a quiet time, without distractions, so that you have their attention. Remember the importance of the subject, but be yourself.
  • DO talk about which parts of their bodies are considered “private” and which are not private, using whatever terms are common within in your home.
  • DO talk about who CAN touch your child’s private parts, such as a doctor as part of an exam or parents and caregivers who might assist with toileting or bathing. Distinguish between those normal activities and inappropriate touches.
  • DO talk about how it is not okay for anyone else to touch their private parts, including other children.
  • DO talk about what your child should do if someone touches them, who they should tell, and where they can go. Make sure they know they can always talk to you, no matter what has happened.
  • DO emphasize that it’s never safe to go into another person’s home or car without your knowledge. Make it clear this includes neighbors, friends, family members and acquaintances.
  • DO become familiar with the symptoms of sexual abuse, such as changes in behavior or sleeping habits.
  • DO show support for whatever your child tells you. Try not to show that you’re upset as their truthful disclosure and emotional recovery depend on your love and support.

 The DON’Ts

  • DO NOT ask direct questions, such as “Has Uncle Bob ever touched you?” Inquire in general about different people that your child is in contact with.
  • DO NOT use dolls or stuffed animals to demonstrate. This can invite “magical thinking” into the scenario as children commonly engage in pretend play with these toys. If your child does disclose something of concern, avoid the temptation to ask direct or leading questions.

Knowing My Rules for Safety (PDF format)


Suggested Reading for Parents

These books are only suggestions.
Parents are strongly encouraged to read each book before deciding to give them to your children.

  • Adams, C. and Fay, J. (1995). “Helping Your Child Recover from Sexual Abuse.”
    Seattle: University of Washington Press
  • Alexander, D.  (1999). “Children Changed by Trauma: A Healing Guide.”
    New Harbinger Publications
  • Bear, D. (1988). “Adults Molested As Children: A Survivor’s Manual for Women and Men.”
    Safer Society Press
  • Brohl, K. (2004). “When Your Child Has Been Molested.”
    Jossey-Bass
  • Byerly, C. (1992). “The Mother’s Book.”
    Iowa: Kendal/Hunt Publishing Co.
  • Davies, V. (1997). “Betrayal of Trust:
    Understanding and Overcoming the Legacy of Childhood Sexual Abuse.”

    Ashgrove Publishing Ltd
  • Hooper, C. (1992). “Mother Surviving Child Sexual Abuse.”
    Routledge
  • Mars, B. (1999). “Bobbie’s Story: A Guide for Foster Parents.”
    Child Welfare League of Amer
  • Schaefer, K. (1993). “What Only a Mother Can Tell You About Child Sexual Abuse.”
    Child Welfare League