Are you concerned about the constant flow of scary news about sexual abuse? Are you searching for the best way to cover the basics in an appropriate, non-icky way? Before sending your kids off on the school bus this year, seize this unique and powerful moment to empower your kids with a red flag talk. Whether it’s the first talk you’ve had on the subject or a review, it’s good to have this information fresh in children’s minds before school begins.
One of the most important conversations you will need to have with your child, and keep having, is a red flag talk. Ideally, this talk is more of an open and developmentally appropriate conversation about sexual abuse prevention.
Approach the subject in a way children can understand.
How can we talk about guarding against inappropriate sexual behavior in a way that kids can understand? The first step is to help kids listen to their own gut feelings.
People and situations can often make children uncomfortable. They may feel nervous, agitated, frightened, sad or angry. But children may have trouble attending to and taking action regarding their feelings when there is danger present. To help kids notice and identify their feelings, in I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private, we teach children and parents about RED FLAGS. Typically, kids are familiar with the colors red and green. And they may be aware of stoplights. So they can be taught that RED means STOP. RED is DANGER.
In the book, we explain to kids that they should mentally “put up a red flag” if they find themselves feeling: Upset, uncomfortable, lonely, sad, angry, scared, yucky or in danger. Helping a child learn to identify their feelings, listen to them, and act on them is the purpose of this part of the talk.
Define red flag boundaries.
It is key that we have open conversations with our children at an early age to help them learn who is allowed to help take care of them and keep them clean. Kids can be curious, silly, goofy, run around naked, and say all sorts of things. They want to touch and see everything. This is a very healthy and normal stage of development. It is important to teach kids that the private areas are areas for them to touch, and nobody else. We need to teach them with clear and direct information to keep safe and healthy. But at the same time, we do not want to scare children unduly, nor teach them in any way to feel ashamed of their bodies. In I Said NO! we approach this sensitively, using the concept of modesty.
It’s also okay to let kids know that if they don’t want to be touched, hugged or kissed by a friend or relative they have the right to politely decline the affection. Teach kids polite ways to decline a hug or kiss by encouraging manners and alternatives. Discussing these situations with kids and brainstorming polite, but clear ways to decline affectionate touching will help prepare them to identify unwanted touching situations and handle them appropriately in the future.
A complete review of body boundaries and consent would be a great way to start the new school year off right! We define private parts for boys as the parts of your body that are under your underwear. For girls, we defined the private area as parts that are under your underwear and undershirt. We also encourage parents to discuss the “doctor names” for body parts. A child may be hesitant and confused about speaking about inappropriate events. Knowing the correct terminology for all body parts will help assure that any reports or disclosures the child may make will be clearly understood by adults.
Good books on the subject can guide you.
A good way to approach the Red Flag talk is to read good books on this topic with your children. It is important that the book becomes part of an interactive conversation. And it’s important to talk about it in kid-friendly, non-icky ways. When children practice and play-act good responses repeatedly, they will be more prepared than if they just hear the words in a book. For this reason, I Said NO! Offers many opportunities for practice and discussion.
Here are three of our favorite books on this subject:
I Said No: A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private – Kimberly King (ages 3-8)
Helping kids set healthy boundaries for their private parts can be a daunting and awkward task for parents, counselors, and educators. Written from a kid’s point of view, I Said No! makes this task a lot easier.
To help Zack cope with a real-life experience he had with a friend, he and his mom wrote a book to help prepare other kids to deal with a range of problematic situations. I Said No! uses kid-friendly language and illustrations to help parents and concerned adults give kids guidance they can understand, practice and use.
Using a simple, direct, decidedly non-icky approach that doesn’t dumb down the issues involved, as well as an easy-to-use system to help kids rehearse and remember appropriate responses to help keep them safe, I Said No! covers a variety of topics, including:
- What’s appropriate and with whom.
- How to deal with inappropriate behavior, bribes, and threats.
- When and where to go for help, and what to do if the people you’re turning to for help don’t listen.
- Dealing with feelings of guilt and shame.
I Said No! earned a Mom’s Choice Awards® Gold
No Trespassing! My Body is Private -Patty Fitzgerald (ages 3-8)
Siblings Katie and her little brother Kyle learn about personal safety, private parts, and “thumbs up & thumbs down” touches by talking with their mom in a loving and easy-to-understand manner. With an empowering dialog that is never fearful, parents can use this book to begin this important discussion with their children. Katie and Kyle’s mom also explains the essential “No Secrets” rule in their family, and that it is never their fault if they get an “uh-oh feeling” from anyone.
Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept – Jayneen Sanders (ages–12)
Is a beautifully illustrated children’s picture book that sensitively broaches the subject of keeping children safe from inappropriate touch. We teach water and road safety, but how do we teach Body Safety to young children in a way that is neither frightening nor confronting? This book is an invaluable tool for parents, caregivers, teachers and healthcare professionals to broach the subject of safe and unsafe touch in a non-threatening and age-appropriate way. The comprehensive notes to the reader and discussion questions at the back of the book support both the reader and the child when discussing the story. Suitable for children aged 3 to 12 years.