It can be difficult to teach personal and physical boundaries to a young child who has limited understanding of the world and its potential dangers. Parents not only must worry about inappropriate exposure and physical abuse but possible abduction when they least expect it. Creating a safe environment along with guiding your child through real-life scenarios will help keep your child safe and healthy.
Provide privacy when a child is taking a bath or learning to use the toilet. Show your child how to close the door at home, and do not let siblings watch her undress. Teach her that her body is private and hands-off to others. Ingrain privacy at home to ensure that she will expect privacy while at school and when visiting friends’ houses.
Explain to your child that only Mommy, Daddy and the doctor are allowed to look at the parts of his body that a swimsuit covers up, when you are giving your tot a bath or helping him get dressed. Say, “If anyone ever tries to touch you in your private area, you must tell Mommy or Daddy right away.” Remind him that his body is off-limits to others when you are potty training, going swimming or using public facilities.
Teach your child not to freeze if she is approached by a stranger, or if someone makes her feel uncomfortable in any way. Encourage her to practice yelling, “No!” and running away to a safe place, while you are at the park, in the mall, or another area that you visit. Tell her how strangers may try to entice her with candy or ice cream on a hot summer day, or even ask her to help them find a lost puppy to lure her away from others.
Teach your child that there are physical boundaries with other children as well as adults. Move him away from others if you see your child getting angry and ready to react physically with another child, so he has the chance to calm down. Explain to him that it is unacceptable to hit another person in anger, and that there are better ways to handle his emotions. Show him how to offer a sincere apology.
Show your child that each person has personal boundaries, or personal space. Have her hold her arms out and explain that some people like that amount of space around them all the time. Speak loudly near her ear and ask, “Is it uncomfortable for you when I talk like this? This is why we are mindful of how loud our voices are when we speak to our friends.”