Talking to Children about Protecting Themselves


We can prevent child abuse by helping children to recognize warning signs and protect themselves. Children need to know their rights, how to identify a potentially abusive situation, and what to do to get out of such a situation. Teaching kids these skills does not have to be scary.

1. “Your body belongs to you.” Your child should know that they have the right to say no.

  • No one should touch you if you don’t want them to.
  • No one should make you touch him or her.

Teach children the correct names for their private parts, i.e. breasts, buttocks, penis, vagina. It is easier for them to accurately report inappropriate touching if they know these terms.

2. “Your feelings are important.” Your child needs to know that you will take them seriously.

  • Trust your feelings and share them with me.
  • I want to know how you feel. What are some examples of feelings? (happy, sad, angry)
  • I will listen to you, and I will believe you.

3. “There are different kinds of touches.”
Help your child understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

  • Good touches make you feel happy and loved. What are some examples? (kiss, hug, high-five)
  • Bad touches hurt and make you feel sad, angry, hurt, or upset. What are examples? (kick, hit, punch)
  • Confusing touches may feel good at first and then feel bad or uncomfortable. Hugs that are too tight or tickling that goes on too long can make us feel confused or mixed up. This “uh-oh” feeling happens when something does not feel right and you don’t understand why. Being touched on your private parts can feel bad or confusing. Being made to touch someone else’s private parts can feel bad or confusing.

4. “No one has the right to touch your private parts or your body in any way you do not like.”

Remember the Personal Safety Saying:

  • Say No! It does not matter who the person is, tell them to stop. Practice saying NO! together.
  • Get Away as quickly as possibly and go to a safe place where there is a trusted adult.
  • Tell someone – me or another trusted adult. Keep telling adults until someone helps you. Who are some adults you could tell? Brainstorm trusted adults they could talk to at different places: home, school, church, etc.

5. “You don’t have to keep a secret that makes you feel uncomfortable or hurts your body.”
Help your child understand that even if an adult tells them to keep abuse secret, they should tell a trusted adult.

  • If a grown-up wants you to keep a secret, tell me. Even if you promised not to tell or they scared you, I want to know.
  • Secrets are different from surprises. Surprises, like a birthday present, are supposed to be found out and that makes them fun. Secrets are kept hidden, usually to keep someone out of trouble.

6. “If someone touches your private parts or wants you to touch theirs, it’s not your fault.”
Children are often shamed by their abuser into feeling at fault. Also, the abuser might convince them that if they tell, they will get in trouble. Your child needs to understand that they are never at fault and that you will not be angry at them when they tell.

  • You didn’t do anything wrong. It is that person’s fault because they shouldn’t touch you that way.

8. “Grown-ups know it’s against the rules to touch children. If you’re ever unsure about a touch, come talk to me about it. We can figure out if it was okay or not.” 
Even when they are equipped with knowledge about touches and private parts, sometimes touches can be confusing. Kids should know that they always have the option of talking to you about it, even if they’re not sure. Furthermore, sexual abuse can be an escalating process of grooming. If children know they can talk about confusing touches early on, you may be able to intervene before abuse becomes more traumatic.

  • It’s my job to keep you safe, and I can do that best when you tell me if something’s wrong. Tell me, and I will do my best to help you. I won’t be mad at you.
    Kids need to know that you’re looking out for them. Reassure them that if they tell you about something disturbing, you will help them, not get mad at them.
  • Sometimes people we know make bad choices and can hurt us. If anyone ever makes you uncomfortable—even if it’s a family member or a friend—please tell me.
    It’s important that we don’t rely on “stranger danger” about safety—the reality is that child sexual abuse is usually perpetrated by someone a child knows. Also, be sure to mention that it’s not okay for older or larger siblings, cousins, or friends to touch them, either.

7. “Most adults don’t touch children in bad or confusing ways.”
Help your child understand that abuse is not something they need to be scared of.

  • Things like this don’t usually happen, but sometimes adults make bad choices. So we learn safety rules just in case, the same way we learn safety rules for other things, like what to do in a fire.
  • No one, not even a friend or family member, has the right to touch you in a way you don’t like.
  • 24-Hour Help Line:

    • 866-WE-LISTEN (866-935-4783)
    • 919-967-7273 (Local)
    • 919-338-0746 (TTY)
    • 919-504-5211 (Text)