Safety Topic: Touch in a Healthy Relationship 

By Irene van der Zande,
Executive Director/Co-Founder, Kidpower International

Information you can share with your children:

To have healthy relationships, you need to have good boundaries. To have good boundaries, you need to have an understanding about what is safe and what is not safe both emotionally and physically; to have skills to communicate with others about your boundaries; to be able to deal with emotional coercion and social pressure; to stay in charge of what you say and do so you don’t cross the boundaries of others; and to know how to get help if you need to.

Touch, teasing, play, games, and affection are often areas that can create problems in relationships.

Touch or games for fun, teasing, or affection need to be:

The O.U.R. Children’s Safety Project (Observe, Understand and Respond) continues to gain momentum as a group of learners seeks to raise awareness and gather tools for helping parents of deaf/hh children and the professionals who serve them to prevent or recognize and halt the damage of child abuse and neglect. Kidpower International has joined the collaborative and shares this wisdom about how to teach children where safe boundaries are in touching. Kidpower is a nonprofit organization that has been teaching people of all ages and abilities how to use their power to protect themselves from harm and build healthy relationships for over 20 years. Their website at www.kidpower.org offers a wealth of free resources as well publications for sale and services.
  • Safe
  • The choice of each person
  • Allowed by the adults in charge
  • Not a secret

Touch for health and safety might not be a choice, but is never a secret.  Problems should not be secret. Touch should not have to be secret. Presents or games should not have to be secret.  If you have a safety problem, tell an adult you trust and keep telling until you get the help you need.

For children, the Kidpower safety rules about touching private areas are: Your private areas are the parts of your body that can be covered by a bathing suit. For play or teasing, other people should not touch your private areas nor should they ask you to touch their private areas nor should they show you movies or pictures about people touching private areas. For health or safety, such as if you’re sick, your parents or doctor might need to touch your private areas, but this should never be a secret.

As young people become older teens and adults, the rules about touching private areas get a lot more complicated. Families are very different in their values and we need to be respectful of this. But we also need to be realistic. What I tell teens is, “I am not here to decide for you what is morally right or wrong about sexual behavior. That’s the job of your family or, if you are part of a religious community, of your spiritual leaders. I really recommend you discuss this with your parents and other adults you trust. Remember that people who have more power than you should NOT be using that power to have sexual interactions with you. In order to be safe, it is important to be sure that anything you might do is truly the choice of each person involved and not something you do because emotional coercion, strong feelings of the moment, or social pressure. It is also important that you respect the boundaries of others, which means that you don’t use emotional coercion, strong feelings of the moment, or social pressure to try to get another person to do something you want. When it comes to sexual behavior, remember that ‘No’ means ‘No.’ ‘Maybe’ means ‘No.’ And ‘yes’ means ‘Maybe.’”

Knowing the rules is important, but people also need skills in communicating about boundaries. This is why our Kidpower teaching method emphasizes coaching our students to be successful in practicing the skills they need to keep themselves emotionally and physically safe.

Thank you to Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International for giving Hands & Voices, as a member of the O.U.R. Project, permission to use their copyrighted material.

Copyright © 2010. All rights reserved.

For more resources on teaching our children safety awareness, see www.kidpower.org
For more on the O.U.R. Project, see the wiki site at deafed-childabuse-neglect col.wiki.educ.msu.edu.

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