Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
For all parents, their kids are the most precious parts of their lives. Every parent tries their level best to do everything in their power to keep their kids safe.
Even then, we hear in the news cases of Child Sexual Abuse with alarming regularity, and this makes us question ourselves as parents and wonder if we are actually doing all we can to keep our kids safe.
Most parents teach their kids enough to keep themselves safe in the most basic of ways- like staying close to them when they go out in public places that are crowded, look both ways when crossing busy roads, not to switch on the gas at home, etc.
While these in itself are not very easy lessons to teach as for kids fearlessness is a part of their intrinsic nature, the rest are even more difficult. We will definitely not be there with our kids to cross every road together, and as much as we would like to, we cannot wrap our kids in cotton wool to keep them protected from daily atrocities.
Ask yourself as a parent- what if the unthinkable happened and someone pushed all physical boundaries with your kids? Would they know what to do? Would they tell you?
WOULD THEY EVEN REALIZE THAT IT WAS WRONG?
As bold and as bright as all our kids are, we can never be sure until we teach them. But how do you even begin a conversation like that with kids as young as 4, 5 and 6? Are their tender minds ready to grasp these concepts which seem so adult like in terrifying reality?
Most kids at that age are not ready to have the conversation about the birds and the bees, leave alone the kind of abuse that we as adults read in the papers at an almost daily basis now. Our kids look at the world with such enthusiasm and trust that we just don’t want to take that away from them. We don’t want to scare them, since we are scared ourselves.
THEN, I CAME ACROSS “THE UNDERWEAR RULE”.
And I realized that this talk need not be as complicated as I was making it in my head, plagued as I was by own fears as a mother and my own awkwardness at broaching this subject too early. Through this rule, we did not have to talk about “bad people”, and we did not even have to talk about “sex”, for now at least.
So what’s this Underwear Rule? How does it help you, as a parent, to approach this conversation in stages, mustering courage one day at a time, empowering you and your kids against sexual abuse?
THE UNDERWEAR RULE- TALK PANTS
The Underwear Rule is a simple way that parents can help keep children safe from abuse by teaching them that:
- their body belongs to them
- they have a right to say no
- they should tell an adult if they’re upset or worried
I know talking to your child about their private parts and staying safe can seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be scary or mention sex.
Simple conversations can help children understand that their body is their own and help protect them from abuse. Teach them The Underwear Rule and they’ve got it all covered.
The acronym PANTS has been developed as the easiest way to teach kids the FIVE KEY ELEMENTS of The Underwear Rule.
P – Private Parts are Private.
A – Always Remember That Your Body Belongs to You
N – NO means NO
T – Talk About The Secrets That Upset You.
S – Speak Up, Someone Can Help
PRIVATES ARE PRIVATE
- Be clear with your child that parts of their body covered by underwear are private. No one should ask your child to touch or look at parts of their body covered by underwear.
- If anyone tries to touch their private parts, tell your child to say “no” and to tell an adult they trust about what has happened.
- In some situations, people – family members at bathtime, or doctors and nurses – may need to touch your child’s private parts.
- Explain that this is OK, but that those people should always explain why, and ask your child if it’s OK first.
ALWAYS REMEMBER YOUR BODY BELONGS TO YOU
- Let your child know their body belongs to them, and no one else.
- It can be helpful to talk about the difference between safe and unsafe touch, like a hug from a hug from someone they love is a safe touch, whereas any touch that makes them uncomfortable is an unsafe touch.
- DO NOT USE THE WORDS GOOD TOUCH / BAD TOUCH. A touch that starts out being “good” like a hug from a potential predator can quickly move to be being “bad” with time. Instead, stress on the importance of a SAFE versus UNSAFE Touch, to drill into them the gravity of the situation.
- No one has the right to make them do anything with their body that makes them feel uncomfortable. And if anyone tries, tell your child they have the right to say no.
- This can be a good time to remind your child that they can always talk to you about anything which worries or upsets them.
NO MEANS NO
- Make sure your child understands that they have the right to say “no” to unwanted touch – even to a family member or someone they know or love.
- This shows that they’re in control of their body and their feelings should be respected.
- If a child feels confident to say no to their own family, they are more likely to say no to others. Don’t force them to hug or kiss family members, even adults, if they are uncomfortable. Simple steps will go a long way in their eventual protection.
TALK ABOUT SECRETS THAT UPSET YOU
- Your child needs to feel able to speak up about a secret that’s worrying them and confident that saying something won’t get them into trouble.
- To help them feel clear and comfortable about what to share and when, explain the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ secrets.
- Bad secrets: make you feel worried, uneasy, sad or frightened, may be asked to be kept in exchange for something, and often have no end time.
- Good secrets: can be nice things like surprise parties or presents for someone else and will usually be shared in the end
- It’s important that your child knows the difference because ‘secrets’ are often an abusers greatest weapon in stopping a child from telling anybody about abuse.
- Phrases like “it’s our little secret” are their way of making a child feel worried, or scared to tell someone what is happening to them
SPEAK UP, SOMEONE CAN HELP
- Tell your child that if they ever feel sad, anxious or frightened they should talk to an adult they trust.
- A trusted adult doesn’t have to be a family member. It can also be a teacher, a grandparent, uncle or aunty, etc.
- Whoever they feel most comfortable talking to, reassure your child this adult will listen, and can help stop whatever is making them upset.
- The more your child is aware of all the people they can turn to, the more likely they are to tell someone as soon as they have a worry.
- Remind your child that whatever the problem, it’s not their fault and they will never get into trouble for speaking up.
If you would like a catchy phrase to end your conversations about abuse with your children, may I recommend:
"I LOVE YOU UNCONDITIONALLY AND AM ALWAYS HERE TO LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGMENT OR SHAME."
All Parents- Be Aware, Not Afraid.
Get the word out- Help keep your child safe – TALK PANTS!
Have you broached the difficult subject of “Child Abuse” and “Safe and Unsafe Touch” with your kids yet? How did you or do you plan on doing it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Some Sources and Resources:-