Touch in Healthy Relationships
Written by Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director
Most sexual abuse can be prevented when adults and kids have clear and appropriate personal boundaries. This article is from The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, a tremendous resource for protecting children from abuse, bullying, kidnapping, and other violence.
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 and to have skills to communicate with others about your boundaries.
Kidpower’s four boundary principles are:
1. We each belong to ourselves.
2. Some things are not a choice.
3. Problems should not be secrets.
4. Keep telling until you get the help you need.
Touch, teasing, and affection are often areas that can create problems in relationships. Here’s a summary of our basic Kidpower rules..
Regardless of age, touch or games for play, teasing, and affection need to be:
- 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 and their private areas. For health or safety, such as if you’re sick, your parents or doctor might need to touch your private areas, but it is never a secret.”
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.