When your child is around 3 years old, consider talking about his or her body parts and safety education. Teach your child the correct words to describe his or her body parts. Introduce safety rules such as wearing a helmet or seat belt, and include unwanted touching as an important part of safety
Teach your child that no one should touch his or her private parts (parts covered by a bathing suit) except to keep them healthy, such as a doctor checkup. You should also teach your child to tell a trusted adult if something happens, even if the child couldn’t say no at the time. Encourage your child never to keep secrets from you.
How to talk to your child about body safety:
- Be open and honest when your child asks questions
- Talk at a level your child can understand
- Use your child’s own words
- Encourage your child to talk to you about anything at any time
- Praise your child for telling you difficult things
Listen without judging
There are things parents can do to make sure their children are safe from child abuse. Check out the people involved in your child’s activities, such as:
- After-school programs
- Day care providers
- Dating partners
- Play groups
- Sports programs
Visit your child’s day care center or caregiver’s home periodically and unannounced. Be aware of the interactions others have with your child. Talk with others who have children in that person’s care. Check out the background of caregivers with questions like:
- How long has the caregiver been a childcare provider?
- Is the caregiver licensed by the state as a day care provider?
- Has the caregiver been investigated or accused of a child abuse in the past? Check the sex offender registry for a criminal history.
Watch for changes in your child’s behavior
Certain behaviors can indicate sexual child abuse but may also be related to other things going on in a child’s life, such as a death, divorce, a recent move or change in schools. If changes in your child’s behavior interfere with normal activities or continue after you have provided your child with guidance and structure, seek professional help.
Children ages 1 to 5 may show interest in:
- The world
- Looking at others’ bodies
- Bathroom activities of others
- Showing their private parts to peers
- Touching their private parts as self-soothing behavior, usually during naps or bedtime
What to do if you suspect abuse
- Remain calm
- Tell your child he or she did the right thing by telling you
- Protect your child from the person and let your child know you will help keep him or her safe
- Report your concerns immediately to the authorities to seek child abuse help
- Call your child’s doctor or arrange to have your child seen by an expert in medical evaluations for suspected sexual abuse
- Place blame on your child
- Make judgmental comments
- Confront the person
- Have your child confront the person