Touch in Healthy Relationships

Kidpower Boundary Rules and Guidelines

Written by Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director

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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:

  • 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 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.”

This language is designed to be clear about what kids most need to know without being more explicit than absolutely necessary. At Kidpower, we work with parents from a wide range of beliefs and cultures who have very different beliefs in how explicit to be about names of private body parts. Our goal is to respect these differences while giving kids information that can keep them safe most of the time.

However, like most child abuse prevention experts, we believe that children benefit from being taught the actual names of all parts of people’s bodies, including private areas, so they can be understood in the event of sexual abuse and also so that they view their entire body as healthy rather than shameful. . We encourage parents and teachers to teach these words to young children in the same matter-of-fact way that they teach kids words for other body parts.

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.

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About the Author

Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Founder and Executive Director
Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe, the Kidpower Safety Comics series, the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults, and The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People.
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