Childhood sexual abuse can have lifelong implications. Teens and adults who were abused as kids often suffer from depression, anxiety, and other problems. Although sexual abuse is not something parents look forward to talking about, teaching even young children some basics may keep them from becoming victims.
Talk to young children about what makes touching ok and what makes it wrong. Even young children are uncomfortable in situations where touching feels inappropriate. Teach kids to voice their discomfort and tell a trusted adult when something happens. Touching can be a tricky subject for kids, and teaching them about inappropriate touching can lead to some unexpected situations. Consider the following:
Taylor, a bright five-year old girl, was taught about inappropriate touching. During her yearly physical examination, her doctor reached to lift up her dress to examine a rash she had on her upper thigh. Taylor smacked the doctor's hand for looking under her dress.
Although many kids never actually give their pediatricians a good thwack for peeking under their clothes, Taylor's doctor learned something from her. He respected her feelings about being examined even though she was so young. He changed his way of doing examinations to include talking to kids about what he was doing during an exam and why he needed to do it.
Kids don't always understand the difference between necessary touching and touching that is abusive. It's up to parents to inform kids what to expect during a doctor's visit, and how to differentiate between right and wrong when it comes to touching.
Just like Taylor stood up for herself, kids need to be taught to speak up when they feel they have been inappropriately touched, fondled, or abused. Just as important as telling your kids what abuse means is giving them the confidence to tell a trusted adult when they feel they've been a victim of abuse. Talk to kids about the tricks abusers may use to keep them from telling someone, and assure them that telling someone about the abuse is always the best thing to do.
If you have trouble discussing these situations with your child or worry that you may not be covering all the bases, there are several great books that present the subject in an age-appropriate way that won't scare kids.